The Aesthetics of Self-Invention: Oscar Wilde to David Bowie

By Shelton Waldrep | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 5
Phenomenology of Performance:
David Bowie

Politics of Sound

In 1958 Allan Kaprow, the inventor of the “Happening,” called for the creation of a total art form. Citing Wagner and the symbolist poets, Kaprow outlined as the first principle that “the line between the Happening and daily life should be kept as fluid and perhaps indistinct as possible.”1 Basing his work on Goffman's influential Presentation of Self in Everyday Life (1959), Kaprow's insistence on “performing life” was in many ways a precursor to the direction David Bowie would take in the 1970s. Along with Capote, Warhol, and Hockney, Bowie represents contemporary culture as a heterogeneous expression of a performative self and acts as the ultimate type of Wilde in his ability to take Wilde's permutations and transformations of self and fashion a career that is based completely on displaying and practicing this performative paradigm. Whereas both Capote and Warhol cling to an idea that they are artists, Bowie goes further in abandoning the dictates of his medium to fashion experimental work from within a genre.

Bowie's unique abilities were first realized in his successful transformation into Ziggy Stardust via exposure to Warhol's Pork2—a theater piece that may well have galvanized many of the tendencies in Bowie's performance, linking the perverse desire of Ziggy to the theatrical aura Bowie was already developing through mime and other interactive art forms. Certainly Bowie was impressed with Warhol then and now,

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The Aesthetics of Self-Invention: Oscar Wilde to David Bowie
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Introduction - Positioning Wilde Before and After Modernism xi
  • Part I 1
  • Chapter 1 - Wilde's Romantic Irony 3
  • Chapter 2 - Attributing Wilde 23
  • Chapter 3 - Performing Wilde 49
  • Part II 75
  • Chapter 4 - Talking as Performance 77
  • Chapter 5 - Phenomenology of Performance: David Bowie 105
  • Coda - Public Encounters with Private Bodies; Or, Rent Music 141
  • Notes 147
  • Permissions 191
  • Index 193
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