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2- “Just like that Blue Bird”: Bowie as “that-as-been” in the video for “Lazarus” - Nicholas P. Greco, Providence University College

9:00 AM, Sunday 26 May 2019 (2 hours)
Coffee break   11:00 AM to 11:30 AM (30 minutes)

In the video for “Lazarus,” an aging David Bowie is shown bedridden and somewhat monstrous, haunted by a menacing figure reaching from under his bed. The video not only shows Bowie as aging, but as dying. The video was released three days before Bowie’s death on 10 January 2016. The video seems to be an epitaph, a call from beyond the grave: after all, Bowie sings, “Look up here, I’m in heaven.”
In the video, Bowie is shown wearing a black outfit adorned with white diagonal stripes, similar to what he wore in photos from the Station to Station album, in 1976. He wears a similar outfit during the Glass Spider Tour in 1987. Perhaps Bowie compells his audience to consider his past work from the standpoint of his (very) late career. Bowie forces the viewer to consider the passage of time, and the very fact that Bowie ages, moves and develops through time. Furthermore, Bowie makes the viewer work through Bowie’s own death: like Roland Barthes’ notion of the photograph as an object “that-has-been,” (from Camera Lucida), so the music video reminds the viewer that, not only has Bowie embodied these figures in the same outfit, but he also falls into the category of “that-has-been,” especially when one considers his death days after the video’s release. Bowie’s epitaph is that he has existed, but that he is no more. This paper explores this strategy of marking both the passage of time and the end of Bowie’s career in popular music.
Providence University College
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