Pierpaolo Martino

From George Orwell to David Bowie: Performing Dystopian Narratives in the Diamond Dogs Album and Show

  • Abstract

Informations and abstract

Keywords: Bowie; Orwell; Dystopia.

This paper discusses David Bowie's album "Diamond Dogs" (1974) in terms of a multimodal performance involving different artistic performances, in which music interrogates other media and where images, sounds and words (Barthes 1977) constantly redefine themselves. With Diamond Dogs Bowie gave body to a dystopian work (Critchley 2016) deeply influenced by Orwell's iconic novel "Nineteen Eighty-Four". If the album stands as a fascinating and dissonant aural performance in which Orwell's vision and words powerfully emerge in tracks such as "We are the dead", 1984 and "Big Brother", the live show (with which Bowie tours the United States in the spring and summer of that year) could be regarded as approximating and exceeding theatre, through Bowie's futuristic intuitions, in which the artist creates a complex narrative where avant-garde and directness combine in a glamorous mix. What seems particularly relevant about the Diamond Dogs album and show is Bowie's ability to create an art experience which expands the literary in performative terms into a multidimensional narrative in which the very idea of dystopia (Gottlieb 2001) is both performed and deconstructed.

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