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David Bowie: dancing with madness and proselytising the socio-political in art and life
journal contributionposted on 2013-01-01, 00:00 authored by Toija CinqueToija Cinque
A longstanding, successful and frequently controversial career spanning more than four decades establishes David Bowie as charged with individual agency. The notion of ‘agency’ here refers particularly to the ‘ability of people, individually and collectively to influence their own lives and the society in which they live’ (Germov and Poole, 2007: 7). That Bowie has influenced many lives is undeniable to his fans. He has long demonstrated an avid curiosity for the enduring patterns of social life which is reflected in his art. Bowie’s opus contains the elements of ideological narratives around sexual (mis)adventure, expressivity, and; resistance to ‘normative’ behaviour. He requisitions his audiences, through frequently indirect lyrics and images, to critically question sanity, identity and essentially what it means to be ‘us’ and why we are here. Here, in this context, ‘dancing with madness’ assumes an intimate relationship, even if brief, where ideas and emotions come passionately together for the purpose of creative expression much like the intertwining and energetic performance of the partner dance Tango. As such, ‘dancing’ is argued here to be an appropriate descriptor for how Bowie has engaged with creative cultural forms but not meant to be self-conscious nor indicate superficiality or ignorance. The idea of madness for its part is a theme in many of his compositions, for example the original album cover for The Man Who Sold the World (1971) depicts an asylum and includes the song ‘All The Madmen’ and Aladdin Sane (1973)—a lad insane--are but two examples. This paper argues that Bowie’s frequently astute contemplations, manifest through his art over a period now spanning more than forty years, continues to draw fans of like mind to his work with the result that he has a legitimate claim to influence and affect.