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Record Sleeve: ‘Aladdin Sane (1973)’ by David Bowie in Rapid Response Collecting (Vict oria and Albert Museum)

March 5, 2017

David Bowie (1947 – 2016) was one of the most influential artists in the world. He pulled his music to a point where it could only be described as an art form.[1] Also, his extraordinary competence appeared even outside of the musical realm, and numerous people followed his style. I am also his ardent follower. Thus, when I saw the sleeve of his album which one is my favourite, it may be natural that I could not go past.

One of the most widely known his albums, ‘Aladdin Sane (1973)’ was the sixth studio album and the most successful album commercially. Its cover design was a collaboration with photographer Brian Duffy and make-up artist Pierre Laroche. You can see no top on, orange hair, something on the clavicle, a lightning bolt across his face and an inspiration for JK Rowling. The lightning bolt represented the duality of the mind, although Bowie later explained that the "lad insane" of the album’s title track was inspired by his brother Terry, who was diagnosed as a schizophrenic.[2]

As described in V&A, Bowie wanted to express his new persona through this album and his fans made that image their model. The artifice of ‘glam rock’ performers like Bowie was one of the traits rejected by punks later in the decade.

Modernism was a major idea that dominated the 20th-century design. However, inevitably there have been social and regional variations. In the 1970s, reactions to this occurred worldwide, known as Post-Modernism. It has been joined by concern for design which promotes the ecological welfare of the planet as well as the pop culture which represent ephemeral values such as an individual’s sense of identity, a cross fertilisation of high and low taste in the period since the mid-1960s, or an anti-establishment attitude.

In the room 74a, where is the ‘Rapid Response Collecting’, objects are collected in response to major moments in history that touch the world of design and manufacturing. Existing curating approaches sometimes feel too journalistic. Some articles are difficult to draw attention due to their own stories. Sometimes I feel I need something to bind this heterogeneous bric-a-brac together.

However, this shotgun approach, which rapid response collecting has been doing, is an intentional approach. Snapshot investigations are light on the feet and will continue to change over time. But most of all, the biggest impact of this collection is to get a new look at the rest of the museum. Rapid Response brings this story to the fore as a powerful signal that all things are political, beyond craft as a production.[3]

Just as Bowie was trying to establish and reveal his new identity through his album cover, V & A seems to allow the audience to look at the artifacts with new eyes, away from the traditional collecting approach through Rapid Response Collecting.

References:

[1] http://www.davidbowie.com/bio

[2] http://www.vogue.co.uk/gallery/david-bowie-style-file-fashion-history-in-pictures

[3] https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2014/jul/02/victoria-and-albert-rapid-response-gallery-unveiled

posting by WEONTACK HONG

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