chapter  12
Revisiting Bowie’s Berlin
Pages 15

Firstly, the major players in the media are informed: the high-circulation music magazines, the prime-time TV slots. Then comes the PR gush; next, most likely, a pre-order of the new album on I-Tunes, with the inducement of a new song to download, and the new artwork to scrutinise. Next, a press conference, the announcement of a world tour …

… Not this time. In 2013, David Bowie became the first artist to release new songs with

the promotional equivalent of John Cage’s Four Minutes, Thirty-Three Seconds.1 ‘Where Are We Now?’ was Bowie’s first new song for a decade. It arrived as an interlocutor; it spoke to us only. Bowie himself was completely silent. We would know him now only as one of his fictional creations. No press, no comment, just art. The music was sad. Bowie himself looked both bizarre and drowning in memory in the new promotional film by the New York artist Tony Oursler. For most of the song, Bowie is part of a homunculus, a co-joined puppet, whose Siamese wife is played by Oursler’s real-life wife, Jacqueline Humphries. Towards the end of the film we see Bowie, in middle-age, hair still thick but greying, attired in a marine-blue trendy Tee, which obliquely references his first love, Hermione. “As long as there’s me / as long as there’s you …”. The line haunted; a direct connection over time between the song’s protagonist and his audience.