Edinburgh Film Seminar: Twilight of an Idol, or How to Film-Philosophize Bowie’s ★ with Deleuze after Nietzsche
Dr David Deamer
Gilles Deleuze – fresh from his Cinema books – made some passing observations on a relatively new audio-visual form: music videos. ‘For a moment they bordered on something connected with thought’ and ‘could have become a really interesting new field of cinematic activity’, but were ‘immediately… taken over by marketing jingles’ and ‘organized mindlessness’ (Negotiations: 149; 60; 79). Given their minor status, as well as Deleuze’s critique, it is not at all strange that music videos are one of the least explored areas in cinema studies and Deleuzian film-philosophy. Nonetheless, I want to argue that some are as essential and exciting as any great movie, audio-visual art installation, documentary or tv series. Accordingly, the music videos of David Bowie – a pioneer in the form – can be explored using Deleuze’s cinematic semiosis (cineosis): the vital coalescence and ungrounding of audio-visual images through the play of the multiplicity of filmic signs.
Bowie, in this way, parallels Deleuze – and Deleuze parallels Bowie: and each can be made to resonate with the other – I claim – by way of Friedrich Nietzsche. Nietzsche writes in and of a ‘style’ of composition that creates a ‘mosaic’ of ‘signs’, creating a ‘force’ which ‘flows out… achieving a maximal semiotic energy’ (Twilight, ‘Ancients’: 1). Nietzsche’s style influences Deleuze’s philosophy and cineosis, as well as Bowie’s oeuvre and music videos. These videos are ever inventive, exploring new cinematic techniques and ideas concomitant with Bowie’s ongoing re-inventions into diverse personas by way of radical shifts in his music styles. Nietzsche affirms ‘multiplicity’, ‘change’, and ‘becoming’ over ‘unity, identity, [and] permanence’ (Twilight, ‘Reason’: 1;5). And with Bowie nowhere is there such a maximal cineotic energy than in ★ (Johan Renck, 2016).
Dr David Deamer is a writer and free scholar associated with Manchester Metropolitan University, UK. His interests lie at the intersection of cinema and culture with theory, history and politics, centring on the philosophy of Gilles Deleuze and Friedrich Nietzsche. He is the author of Deleuze’s Cinema Books: Three Introductions to the Taxonomy of Images (EUP, 2016); and Deleuze, Japanese Cinema and the Atom Bomb: The Spectre of Impossibility (Bloomsbury, 2014). He has published here and there in various journals and edited collections, was co-founder of the now defunct A/V, and regularly blogs online (see daviddeamer.com). He is currently working on a book on Nietzsche and cinema.