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to_dizzy
(grinning soul)
03/01/05 08:51 AM
Bowie's struggle with pretension  

At around 1973, Bowie said that he authored a "whole new school of pretension" and I think this reveals a lot about how he felt during this period.

During this time, Bowie had released Ziggy Stardust and Aladdin Sane, brilliantly musical albums filled with the best science fiction the literary world had ever seen. He appeared in interviews with William Burroughs and Ray Bradbury, and his concert tours were known for striking theatrics and choreography.

It is no wonder Bowie felt a little embarrassed and "pretentious." How does a high school dropout from a lower-middle class background, born of average parents, achieve so much at the age of 25?

The problem was, Bowie was simply moving too fast. It would take him some time to assimilate the idea that he was "one in a million," as he stated in Station To Station, a freakishly talented man transcending his ordinary beginnings.



CloverThePoet
(kook)
03/01/05 01:02 PM
Re: Bowie's struggle with pretension new [re: to_dizzy]  

Well Stated. He had to express himself apart from the restrictive so called "norm". I identify with him completely in that I'm different from that norm. I will not conform. This causes problems and I must be creative in order to survive. Bowie, on the other hand has the ability to do it ingenously.

Now the savage days are here

jonasf
(electric tomato)
03/01/05 02:24 PM
Re: Bowie's struggle with pretension new [re: to_dizzy]  

Pretention is to have high artistic targets. Pretentious is, in my opinion, somebody who claims to be able to reach those targets, but who is really not able. Bowie was never pretentious. I believe you´re right, Bowie just tried to beat the thickheaded journalists/critics to the bushes by claiming to be pretentious before they even came up with the idea.
/jf

I was always looking left and right!

BigFatDog
(wild eyed peoploid)
03/01/05 02:45 PM
Re: Bowie's struggle with pretension new [re: to_dizzy]  

In reply to:

The problem was, Bowie was simply moving too fast


I utterly disagree. Bowie released 10 albums in 7 years between 1970 and 1977. The albums that were made in that are arguably some of his best ever (Diamond Dogs, Hunky Dory, Station To Station, Low) and the period itself undoubtably his best.

Bowie's pace acts as a direct contraflow from his mind to his work, and with his ever changing phases, adds to dynamics of his work, not to mention the ferocity of not only his work, but the level of fanaticism he was gathering.



Dara
(acolyte)
03/01/05 04:01 PM
New school pretension new [re: to_dizzy]  

I think Bowie uses the words "pretension" and "pretentious" in a different way from the way they are generally understood.

The following words on pretension are Brian Eno's, but I believe the views he expresses are similar to Bowie's:

Pretension is the dismissive name given to people's attempts to be something pther than what they 'really are'. It is vilified in England in particular because we are so suspicious of people trying to 'rise above their station'.

In the arts, the word 'pretentious' has a special meaning: the attempt at something that the critic thinks you have no right even to try. I'm very happy to have added my little offering to the glowing mountain of things described as 'pretentious' - I'm happy to have made claims on things that I didn't have any 'right' to, and I'm happy to have tried being someone else to see what it felt like.

I decided to turn the word 'pretentious' into a compliment. The common assumption is that there are 'real' people and there are others who are pretending to be something they're not. There is also an assumption that there's something morally wrong with pretending. My assumptions about culture as a place where you can take psychological risks without incurring physical penalties make me think that pretending is the most important thing we do. It's the way we make our thought experiments, find out what it would be like to be otherwise.

Robert Wyatt once said that we were always in the condition of children - faced with things we couldn't understand and thus with the need to guess and improvise. Pretending is what kids do all the time. It's how they learn. What makes anyone think that you should sometime give it up?


Slan libh,

Dara

"The definition of insanity is to keep repeating the same actions and to expect different results" Dr. Istvan Bagoli

Persilot
(cracked actor)
03/01/05 04:05 PM
Re: New school pretension new [re: Dara]  

In reply to:

It is vilified in England in particular because we are so suspicious of people trying to 'rise above their station'.


Or is that English people just like to laugh at people who take themselves far too seriously?


"Little Rowen always loved the March Hare"

BigFatDog
(wild eyed peoploid)
03/01/05 04:43 PM
Re: New school pretension new [re: Persilot]  

Us English just cannot accept that something is good and try to pick holes in it, frantically searching for faults. No-one is interested in success stories, magazines and the likes concentrate on "Celebrities With Bad Skin" etc.

Even today I was flicking through one of the tabloids and rather than concentrating on her achievement of winning an Oscar, the paper decided to print Hilary Swank (no, it's not ryhming slang, but yes it very well should be) eating a burger from a fast food restaurant. No-one is allowed to improve. No-one is allowed to aspire. And, well, yeah.



to_dizzy
(grinning soul)
03/01/05 04:54 PM
Re: New school pretension new [re: Persilot]  

From Rolling Stone, 1976

"I already consider myself responsible for a whole school of pretension. Really. I'm quite serious about that. The only thing that seems to shock anybody anymore is something that's pretentious or kitsch. Unless you take things to extremes nobody will believe or pay attention to you. You have to hit them on the head and pretension does the trick. it shocks as much as a Dylanesque thing did ten years ago."

I don't feel Bowie was complimenting himself when he called himself "pretentious." Even as late as 1976, Bowie was still mocking his work; in other interviews he called his writing "middle class." Later in his career, Bowie would say he wanted to be known for his writing, yet in this Rolling Stone interview, I feel Bowie was still unable to reconcile his humble origins with his artistic success.





guiltpuppy
(electric tomato)
03/02/05 03:26 AM
Re: New school pretension new [re: Persilot]  

In reply to:

Or is that English people just like to laugh at people who take themselves far too seriously?



No, it's the class thing. I don't see Bowie taking himself very seriously at all, nor do I see most artists who get called pretentious as doing so... Usually, the quickest way to get called "pretentious" is to be a bit too flippant.

As far as I can tell, the whole notion of pretension is sort of a manifest defense mechanism of the status quo -- in Britain, this apparently takes a very class-focused form, but in the States there is a much more populist mentality. If your work (A) is not in a mass medium, (B) deviates from familiar conventions, and/or (C) requires any specialized knowledge beyond what's learned in high school, your work is apt to be labelled pretentious. And none of this has anything to do with how seriously you do or don't take your work.

Furthermore, what the hell is wrong with taking your work seriously, anyway? No one minds if lawyers or doctors or businessmen or factory workers take their job seriously... In fact, we expect them to. Why is it, then, that we expect artists to openly and honestly half-ass their work? Art is just another job; why treat it in such a backwards manner?

The dreams in which I'm dying are the best I've ever had.

zigbot
(cracked actor)
03/02/05 02:33 PM
Re: New school pretension new [re: guiltpuppy]  

In reply to:

If your work (A) is not in a mass medium, (B) deviates from familiar conventions, and/or (C) requires any specialized knowledge beyond what's learned in high school, your work is apt to be labelled pretentious.


Good point. I agree with you here. Critics often label as "pretentious" that which they simply don't understand and can't be arsed to try to understand.

In reply to:

Furthermore, what the hell is wrong with taking your work seriously, anyway? No one minds if lawyers or doctors or businessmen or factory workers take their job seriously... In fact, we expect them to. Why is it, then, that we expect artists to openly and honestly half-ass their work?


Here, I disagree. Art can be a "job," yes, and no one should expect or reward an artist for "half-assing" his WORK ITSELF. What non-art people often find repugnant or "pretentious" about art people is that they take too serious a position on the social or political EFFECT of their work.

You often hear artists talking about how their art--or art in general--can "change the world." Call me a cynic, but I don't think that's true more than 99.9999999% of the time. At least a factory worker doesn't think he's "changing the world." Why should EVERY "artist" justifiably believe that his work is that seriously important? At best, maybe great artists can have some impact on society, but not every idiot holding a paintbrush or microphone is somehow "superior" to every idiot who is a factory worker. Crap art is crap art, and it don't change no "world."

zigbot


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