New Year has always traditionally been a time of rebirth and new beginnings. This makes it all the more poignant that on January 10th we bade farewell to one of the most important artists of the 20th Century.
David Robert Jones, better known to the world as David Bowie, is someone whose importance and influence in the fields of music and fashion cannot be overstated. In the guise of Ziggy Stardust, the Thin White Duke, he defined an entire decade – the ‘70s – in a way few other artists ever had; apart, perhaps, from Elvis Presley or Bob Dylan. Unlike Presley or Dylan, though, Bowie never slipped into irrelevancy, sentimentality, or cynicism, but remained a vibrant cultural figure up until the very end. His last album, Blackstar, released two days before his death, debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart.
The whole Internet is, of course, filled with these sorts of glowing appraisals of Bowie’s life and career – and rightly so. He was a fascinating human being, not least in his sartorial choices. The fact that Bowie dressed the way he did at a point closer to the end of the Second World War than to the present day says a lot for his status as a trailblazer and an icon. His capacity for reinvention – from space oddity to king of krautrock to New Wave frontrunner and beyond – bespeaks an imagination and a creative courage that should inspire anyone with an interest in the arts, be you actor, designer, or coordinator.
Most relevant for us now at the New Year (with it all its aforementioned connotations) is that capacity for reinvention. Not only did Bowie find his voice at an age when most of us are struggling to find our house keys, but he found it over and over again over the course of almost half a century. However distasteful it may be to some to discuss art in terms of commerce, we all have to make a living. While it would be wrong to attribute him some sort of total self-awareness, you don’t become a prime candidate for “voice of a generation” without a pretty good understanding of exactly what your brand is.
We may not have Bowie’s talent or his confidence, but we can all learn from his example. One of the reasons that today’s generation arguably doesn’t have “a voice” is the fact that we’re all yelling. We all (near enough) have access to social media, we’re all splashing ourselves and our work across the face of the world. While it’s never been easier to get yourself out there, it’s never been harder to get noticed. As such, it’s vital that, as artists and businesspeople, we understand exactly who we are, what we have to offer, and where we fit into the creative process. Flexibility is great, but you need to know where you stand.
It’s a daunting challenge. Still, if you can’t puzzle it out, how will anyone else see it? Now is as good a time as any to start putting yourself through your paces. Platform shoes optional but encouraged.