Vanessa Garcia How Superficial! : David Bowie in 21st Century Literature and the Art of Surfacing
SPEAKER Garcia is an artist and journalist. She is the Founding Artistic Director of Krane theatre/arts company
SYNOPSIS Writers such as Dana Spiotta, Hanif Kureshi, Steve Erickson, and Irvine Welsh, reference Bowie, creating characters connected with Bowie ‘s personas. The paper argues that what these writers are doing is using mixed media, embedded within their writing, to create a surface that implies depth. By ‘surfacing,’ these writers are saying (as Jonathan Lethem writes in his novel about the music scene of the 90s, You Don’t Love Me Yet): ‘You can’t be deep without a surface.’ Bowie becomes the perfect vehicle to observe the phenomenon of how the contemporary artist learns to live on the surface becoming, so to speak, ‘superficial’ while still drenched in the residue of subversion.
KEY POINTS In Dana Spiotta’s novel Stone Arabia, a character gets a birthday cake in the shape of Aladdin Sane. Like other contemporary novels (eg Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad), this is all about ‘surfacing’ as an artist in the 21st century. It makes perfect sense that David Bowie makes an appearance.
Demo version of Lady Stardust 1971
'Sweet Thing' from the Philly Dogs Tour at Universal Amphitheatre, Los Angeles, 1974
KEY QUOTE ‘Mixed Media is really quite complicated. It’s not just about saying: ‘I paint and write, or sing and dance…’ In the 21st century, it means something much more layered that has something to do with how we read the world on screens combined with our visual past, art history, and the melding of one media with another media’