It's been a week since I visited the "David Bowie" exhibition at Martin Gropius Bau and I'm still mumbling refrains from "Starman", "Space Oddity", "Man Who Sold the World"... My flatmate warns gently me about it, commenting how I must have been deeply impressed by the show. I was reluctant to admit it, but it was true. There were just too many mirrors, blings, and huge video projections for anyone to keep it cool.
It was a multimedia funhouse for the new generation, with information poking you from each wall and its multiplied reflection. With such an over-saturation of the material, I am quite surprised that they did not take that one step further and integrate some of it into the floor and the ceiling, set up some holograms, and send in robots to wander around.
It was an "immersive exhibition experience", as announced, which showed Bowie's numerous forms of expression. More than three hundred objects were brought together: handwritten lyrics, original costumes, fashion, photography, film, music videos, set designs, instruments, and album artwork. Around sixty new objects have been added exclusively for Berlin, a place where Bowie spent an intensively creative time, influenced by the city's history, art and culture, but above all, by the people and the places. Funnily enough, it was the time and the place for Bowie to get off the drugs (nowadays it usually goes the other way around) and create some of his best music - he managed to produce three albums in less than two years, and still have time to make trouble with his friend Iggy Pop at Dschungel, SO36, Chez Romy Haag, and other legendary places of the seventies in Berlin. Besides calling Berlin the place where he felt freer than ever, he also said: "It's a city that's so easy to 'get lost' in - and to 'find' oneself, too." Anyone who ever lived in Berlin will agree, and feel a bit closer to the human core of the untouchable godlike Bowie persona.
"David Bowie is getting things done"
The entire show reveals how much this guy actually achieved in his life - not only was he a prolific polymath, but he also had his own distinct way in doing all the things he did. He shapeshifted, innovated, and influenced, made an army of die-hard fans and earned world-wide affection and respect, even from those who do not care about his music. A loveable human specimen, simply incomparable to the rest of the kind. From the young nobody David Robert Jones, to the sparkling superstar David Bowie, who manages to make even greater fans, rather than cynics, with this overhyped traveling show.
Although I do have a certain dose of cynicism towards nurturing a cult of personality and building this kind of shrine-like exhibition about a guy who is still very much alive, I did enjoy it and I would certainly feel as if I missed something greatly important if I skipped it. Of course, the real experience would be to see him perform live, no matter how intense the exhibition is, and how crazy responsive and perfectly timed those wonder-audio-guides are.