KABUKI 'BOWIE' CHAIR
KABUKI 'BOWIE' CHAIR
Hand-painted white leather Parker Knoll swivel chair
Bowie's fascination with Kabuki and Japanese Culture resonate.
This Parker Knoll 70's vintage swivel chair, re-upholstered in white leather, became the blank canvas for Gina McQuen, creating scenes from traditional Japanese theatre, drawing on influence from Kansai Yamamoto,
One can almost visualise Ziggy Stardust contemplating the madness seated within this chair.
David Bowie started experimenting with Kabuki (Traditional Japanese Theatre) for his stage shows in 1973. By the time of his Aladdin Sane tour he was wearing actual Kabuki costumes and using Kabuki stage props and masks. This extract deals with Bowie's debt to Kabuki, and is taken from Ziggy Stardust Chapter, by David Buckley.
To the West of the time, Japan was viewed as an 'alien' culture, at least in the way that it was represented in the tabloids. Often crudely caricatured as an incomprehensible, rule-bound society in which ritual humiliation was the order of the day for its citizens, Bowie's Ziggy dignified Japanese culture, asserting him as open and embracing of ideas outside Anglo-American rock. Bowie helped internationalise pop, driving a long running fascination with the East. The result of this appropriation, was a violent clash between the logic of the rock gig (connection and camaraderie) and that of Kabuki theatre (stately though garish formality).
The use of Kabuki styles in rock performance was an innovation.
Some of the costumes for the Ziggy Stardust and Aladdin Sane shows were actually first used in Kabuki theatre, others were designed for Bowie by Kansai Yamamoto based on traditional designs. The overall visual effect of these shows was that of a blurring of 'found' symbols from science fiction space-age high heels, glitter suits and the like with Kabuki style garments whose effect was to signify the codes of another culture, one alien to Western Society. In the context of the times, Bowie's appropriation of Kabuki theatre was, for a pop audience, in equal measure unsettling and fascinating.
Kabuki’s androgynous nature was elevated by Bowie to a position of fundamental importance. It was the Kabuki aesthetic of visual excess, its’ garish yet formal juxtaposition of colours, which attracted Bowie while he was drawing the Ziggy character. The heavily made-up red or gold lips, black eye-liner and blusher, set against the whitened pallor of the rest of the face, echoed the make-up used in Kabuki theatre. The constant changing of costume, so evident in both Ziggy and Aladdin Sane shows, also had its origin in Kabuki. A change of kimono meant a change of personality. Bowie's celebrated hairstyle, was electric red in colour, imitating the look of a flaming-red lion, 'Shi Shi lion dance' of Kabuki theatre.
Sign of theTimes
By Gina McQuen