RoadNotes #3: German Expressionism, David Bowie and My Creative Process
The death of David Bowie has got me thinking about lots of things, not the least of them the nature of creativity, the creative process and originality.
Yesterday, Randi and I saw an exceptional exhibition of German expressionism at the LA County Museum of Art. This period of art influenced some of David Bowie’s best work, especially that done during his Berlin residency between 1976 and 78. German expressionism, especial the art dubbed by the Nazis as ‘degenerate’ (Entartete Kunst) has also been a great influence in my own songwriting, which can be seen in ‘Jumbo’s Clown Room’ and ‘State Secrets’, both written with Berlin singer/songwriter John Vaughan.
This art is not for everyone. I saw several people fleeing the galleries. But for me it is enormous and touches every nerve in my body in a way that shakes me up, which is essential to my creative process.
The exhibition is called ‘New Objectivity (Neue Sachlichkeit): Modern German Art in the Weimar Republic, 1919-1933. It featured painting and photography from the famous and not so famous of the era. The former include Max Beckmann, Otto Dix, and George Grosz and the latter Heinrich Maria Davringhausen, Aenne Biermann and Franz Radziwill.
According to LACMA curators, New Objectivity artist” turned a cold eye on the new Germany: its desperate prostitutes, crippled war veterans, and alienated urban landscapes, but also its emancipated New Woman, modern architecture, and mass-produced commodities.” I find this approach curiously applicable to the world today, especially in an era of large scale displacement and phenomenal wealth disparity, where people are desperate, war veterans are not taken care of and alienation abounds. I guess humanity hasn’t advanced very far in some ways.