LIKE THE VIDEO FILMS WE SAW
Most of David Bowie's videos manifest an insular quality - self referential and idiosyncratic. Bowie's use of facial grimaces radiates peculiar enigmas.
The videos for Life On Mars?, Be My Wife, "Heroes", Night Flights, convey the presence of an Absence. So much is conspicuous by it's absence.
Bowie's face and body communicate pain and longing. The background is empty space.
Surprisingly the videos for Let's Dance, Fashion, Black Tie White Noise and Day In Day Out give us a glimpse of Bowie's Social Conscience.
In Let's Dance we are given a guided tour of australian aboriginees, the destruction of their ancient ways of being, and their subsequent enslavement by the modern state. The Red Shoes symbolizing the excesses of capitalism are finally rejected by the video's protagonists.
In Fashion we are shown breadlines. In Black Tie White Noise and Day In Day Out Bowie offers us glimpses of multi-cultural american poverty, crime, homelessness, and despair.
The violence in Day In Day Out, unmerciful and bleak is contrasted by the humanity and devotion of the prostitute-mother and her endangered child.
In Black Tie White Noise, Bowie depicts/exploits the fragile humanity of Latin, Asian and Black communities and their rituals.
The use of paradox and juxtaposition is flagrant in the video for Jump They Say. Here Bowie uses the Absence of Presence by obliterating his main protagonist's face. The video is demonically violent.
The Protagonist is tortured and maimed where his identity counts the most - his face. He commits suicide and a priest, an old lady and a young man (in what appears to be the homo-erotic element in the video) rush to his death bed on the roof of a car to comfort him in his final moments.
Bowie uses sparse textures and is sparing with images throughout most of his videos. He depends more on the minimalist elements of face and body to convey emotion.
He relies on certain bodily movements and actions - crawling, falling, kneeling, breaking objects...
He wants us to read between the lines and the cracks in the visual text.
He is amazingly consistent in his use of facial expressions. In Boys Keep Swinging and China Girl the videos main characters smear their lipstick.
In Loving The Alien and DJ Bowie breaks mirrors and in the video for Look Back In Anger he smears one with paint. There is something startingly simple yet jarring about these confrontations with glass.
In the video for Time Will Crawl, the use of bodies in space is astoundingly liberating. Bowie is thrown around and becomes an "object in space." The breaking of a light bulb shows up in this video as well as the video for Never Let Me Down.
These images like the spare/stray sounds he uses as textures on albums like Outside, Low, and "Heroes" remain as indelible spots in the deepest corners of the psyche.
Bowie is comfortable sitting in a chair and going inward in the recording for Miracle Good Night and in the actual video again he makes use of stark images: Bowie clad in suit jacket and tie besieged by an orgy of women hypnotically insulated from him and each other.
Bowie as Chaplain dancing about and banging a drum.
In the final analysis, we are in awe of his movements and his facial expressions. And that Bowie alone in an empty room conveys more than the average image-stuffed video.
By Nevada Kerr
June 8th, 2001.
BW MB Profile...