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David Bowie and the Dysfunctionality of the Artist


We recall a wonderful extract from an interview with the recently deceased Starman in which he shows us that insisting on difference is the way to approach irrationality.

David Bowie (1947-2016) was not only one of the greatest rock stars of all time, but his style and way of thinking had an impact on the visual arts, design, cinema and the way in which his fans looked at the world.

In an interview with Charlie Rose in 1998, the conversation turned to some of Bowie’s ideas regarding the arts, especially painting and how it appears that, irrespective of the discipline, the artist always possesses a nature that threatens and disturbs the placidity of the biological experience. In an ironic tone, but with brilliant moments, Bowie defines what it is to be an artist, as opposed to being a ‘functional’ member of society.

You know, I’ve often wondered if being an artist in any way, in any nature, is a sign of a social dysfunction. It’s an extraordinary thing that I’ve wanted to do: to express yourself in such rarified terms, I think it’s a loony thing to want to do. I think the saner and rational approach to life is: survive, steadfastly and create a protective home, and create a warm, loving environment for one’s family and get food for them… That’s about it. Anything else is extra, all culture is extra. Culture—I guess it’s a freebie. We only need to eat, we don’t need particular white chairs or particular plates, I mean, anything would do, but we insist on making 1,000 different kinds of chairs, and 15 different kinds of plates: it’s unnecessary and it’s a sign of the irrational part of man. We should just be content with picking nuts. Not mine, I might add.

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