On the morning of December 11th I recieved a text from a good friend informing me of the death of David Bowie. As with inumerable others, the music and lifestyle of Bowie was significant in shaping my youth. He acted as conduit for so many things that seemed beyond the reach of ordinary kids who were embarking on ordinary lives. He made life appear exciting, adventurous and open to change. Through the music, his lyrics and influences it was possible to go off at a tangent and discover new worlds, stepping from the Velvet Underground to Andy Warhol, then on to William Burroughs and back to the rawness and recovery of Iggy Pop. You could also delve into to the world of fashion and the likes of Kansai Yamamoto, Ola Hudson and later, Alexander McQueen or move towards theatre and film taking on Brecht’s Baal and David Lynch’s Elephant Man. It could be said that there was something for everyone, after all Bowie even did a Christmas special duet with Bing Crosby. An everyman who defined himself as an outsider, maybe he was in some way regardless of his successes and critical acclaim. A self-proclaimed alien who always brought people together rather than alienated them.
My response to the news of his death was to go into the studio and create some work.
Was Bowie an Outsider? In terms of visual arts I am not always certain as to what actually constitutes an Outsider any more, the term seems to have taken on a life of its own since Roger Cardinal’s 1972 Outsider Art book. I would also be very wary of defining myself as an Outsider even though I have taken an interest in it for a number of years and have been involved with organisations such as Outside In and Uncooked Culture, taking part in group shows and running workshops on the likes of Alfred Wallace, Jean Debuffet and Nek Chand. Just by looking at the works and lives of these artists it’s clear that Outsider Art is not a particular style or a lifestyle; it is simply far too diverse and complex to be defined in such ways. Thanks to the internet and social media there are an abundance of networks out there who see themselves as “Outsiders” some are good and true which have a genuine interest in the work and the people they represent but there are some I find a little dubious – seemingly just out to make some profit on a growing trend. It is because of such differences that I wrote an article for KD Outsiderart blog on “What it means to be an Outsider Artist” http://kdoutsiderart.com/2014/08/13/brian-gibson-what-does-it-mean-to-be-an-outsider/ to clarify in my own mind what being an Outsider artist meant to me .