Missed the record-breaking 'David Bowie Is' retrospective? Fear not...
After David Bowie died in 2016, there was a question mark over the title of his travelling career retrospective: David Bowie Is. “We considered whether [the present tense] was still appropriate – and in a strange way, it seemed more appropriate than ever,” co-curator Victoria Broakes told Billboard. “All of his art and influences are, just as much as when he was alive, all around you.”
Indeed, the exhibition didn’t seek to present his costumes, lyrics and ephemera chronologically but thematically – “a constellation of Bowie’s varied experiments” as that Billboard story went on to put it – thus asserting what it saw as Bowie’s timelessness.
A screenshot from the app
It’s apposite, then, that the exhibition itself has become immortalised. A new augmented reality app of the same name is launching for iOS and Android on 8th January, which would have been Bowie’s 72nd birthday, and lets users experience the show in digital form. True to the format that proved so popular in real life (the show drew over 2 million visitors across 12 cities, making it the most visited touring exhibition in the history of the V&A), the app makes available the rich array of exhibits – plus new items never seen before – within a series of audio visual spaces. As this is augmented reality, users can view each item as a 3D rendering as if they were right there in the room with it. Walk up to a costume, say, and you can look at it from every angle and peer in at the smallest details. Arguably, AR users have greater access to these pieces than the V&A’s visitors who could only look from behind a sheet of glass.
Gary Oldman works on the voiceover for the app
If you were one of those visitors, you will remember wearing Sennheiser headphones that immersed you in a soundscape, changing seamlessly in response to whatever items you were viewing. The app mirrors the experience: plug some headphones into your device and you will be transported musically as you explore the experience’s nooks and crannies, guided by voiceover provided by Bowie’s friend and sometime collaborator Gary Oldman. Later, this whole package will be reformatted for virtual reality.