Exhibit: Starman

I would be dating myself if I told you I’ve been familiar to David Bowie long before he started crooning to “China Girl”, encouraging the masses to put on red shoes to “Let’s Dance”, and promising to never fall for “Modern Love”. Bowie revolutionized music-videos a decade before MTV was launched, and he slipped in and out of costumes and characters a generation before Madonna Ciccone decided to consistently reinvent herself. 

“Turn and face the strain… Ch-ch-Changes..” - D. Bowie (Changes)

I may not have understood him back then, I possibly feared him - human of weird make-up, dual-coloured pupils, pale-faced, cold expression bordering on evil - however I did like his songs, albeit my pre-pubescent stage in life. It’s a wonder how his androgynous appearance did not spur a clearer concept of “gay" in the seventies.

“You’ve got your mother in a whirl… She’s not sure if you’re a boy or a girl..” - D. Bowie (Rebel Rebel)

The artist formally known as David Jones sang of other worlds; 

“Oh man! Wonder if he’ll ever know… He’s in the best selling show… Is there life on Mars?” - D. Bowie (Life On Mars)

of inter-planetary beings; 

“There’s a starman waiting in the sky… He’d like to come and meet us… But he thinks he’ll blow our minds..” - D. Bowie (Starman)

and a tale of an astronaut;             

“Ground control to Major Tom… Commencing countdown, engines on… Check ignition and may god’s love be with you..“ - D. Bowie (Space Oddity)

that falls far from grace; 

“Ashes to ashes… Funk to funky… We know Major Tom’s a junkie… Struck out in heaven’s high… Hitting an all time low.." - D. Bowie (Ashes to Ashes)

It is therefore that on a cold November Wednesday, I found myself with spouse and confidante at the Art Gallery of Ontario, attending the the exhibition: "David Bowie is". Straight from its record-breaking run at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the show had opened in Toronto since September 25, and we were luckily able to attend the event on its last day, November 27.


The exhibit was an experience in music, art, fashion and film. The show boasted of Sennheisser’s technology in which our headphones would automatically flip-flop between narration and tunes based on where we were positioned on the floor. Our senses of sight and sound were constantly bombarded with the artist’s spoken words and melodies.

“I will sit right down… Waiting for the gift of sound and vision..” - D. Bowie (Sound and Vision)

The costumes displayed were as numerous as the eras and characters Bowie portrayed. From ‘The Man Who Sold The World’ to ‘Ziggy Stardust’ to ‘Aladdin Sane’ to ‘The Thin White Duke’ and to eventually what has transpired of him… a seemingly normal bloke who has physically and behaviourally improved with age.

If there were any qualms about the exhibition, it was what the singer often serenaded of, although in a completely different context: SPACE. Possibly due to the overwhelming crowds on its last day of tour, the presentation was a challenge for those of us who were claustrophobic. The floor-areas were tight and the display-rooms were too confined. It was a struggle just to get close enough to the see the hundreds of memorabilia along the outer walls.

"Still this pulsing night

A plague I call a heartbeat

Just be still with me

Ya wouldn’t believe what I’ve been thru” 

     - David Bowie (Cat People; Putting Out The Fire)

November 2013


© Prakoso Sastrowardoyo 2012