David Bowie’s “death mask” was on view at Witte de With’s latest exhibition Bit Rot by renowned writer and artist Douglas Coupland.
The plaster cast was bought on eBay and re-appropriated by Coupland as a fictional memento mori to the legendary artist, who drew his inspiration from anything that happened to catch his fancy, from Kabuki theater to Andy Warhol and Stanley Kubrick. The piece was, in Coupland’s words, “about the impossibility of imagining David Bowie dying.”
Now, time has sadly caught up with the work.
“Last summer my friend, California artist Rex Ray, died. He was David Bowie’s web designer for a decade or so. Rex had told me how Bowie was having a real struggle ageing, which must be really difficult if your persona is based on youth and, to a degree unimportant to most other people, looks. This got me to thinking about modernity and how modernity has no afterlife, only ‘the future’.
I tried to imagine David Bowie dying, but couldn’t and that was the start of the piece. I obtained the casting from a make-up technician in England. Above it on the wall is a plaque from Jenny Holzer that reads, “in a dream you saw a way to survive and you were full of joy”. It’s a solemn pairing of works. I still can’t really imagine Bowie being dead.”
Douglas Coupland, 11 January 2016.