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Why Bowie's new house won't be by Bow Wow - click opera
February 2010
 
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Thu, Jan. 24th, 2008 02:26 am
Why Bowie's new house won't be by Bow Wow

The picture below shows, fanned open, all the jpg images I had on my desktop at about 10 o'clock last night. They're basically the result of two data-mining enquiry lines, a Bowie line and a Bow Wow line. Atelier Bow Wow, that is. So, my favourite celebrity and my favourite architecture studio. (Click the picture to see it huge.)



Having opened these images all up together, I began to make connections between them. At the centre you can see Bowie playing a vicious capitalist refusing a young dot commer a line of finance in Austin Chick's forthcoming film "August". The film is set in 2001, but the room inhabited by Bowie's character is in the pseudo-Victorian style we could call "international rich chintz" or "hotel baroque".

That got me wondering whether the man I associate most fondly with the avant pop experiments of the "Lodger" album has built his new house in Shokan, near Woodstock, yet, and if so, what style it's in? The idyllic woods-and-lake photo below right in my spread is the site, Little Tonshi Mountain.

Google Earth left me none the wiser -- it wouldn't zoom far enough into this remote rural area to show construction, let alone the style of the building taking shape on Bowie and Iman's 64-acre plot in the Catskills. What we do know is that when Bowie commissioned a house on Mustique it was in a sort of Jet Set PoMo style -- a sprawling Balinese fantasy by Swedish architect Arne Hasselqvist, who also made Mustique villas for Mick Jagger and Princess Margaret. (Hasselqvist and his son died tragically in a fire in Nassau in 2001; they initially escaped, but were overcome by smoke when they returned to try to save some documents, possibly architectural plans.)

Bowie's PoMo "world architecture" house was featured in Architectural Digest magazine in September 1992. I remember running out and buying a copy on Tottenham Court Road, near where I was living at the time, and being a bit disappointed. The cover made it look very alluring and Asian, but inside there was a disappointing lack of personality. Everything was cream cushions and rattan chairs. It looked like a rental villa. Now, Bowie bought the Mustique place in the 80s, when he was particularly close with Mick Jagger, who had his own villa in exactly the same style pretty much next door. So there was probably some enormously-wealthy-rock-star peer pressure going on. But it's a bit disappointing how the rich fail to spend their money on really great architecture, and just go for chintz and "hotel baroque". And of course it's also disappointing -- and this is not unrelated -- when their records cease to be avant and just settle into "timeless" styles too. "Luxury hotel baroque" in your living arrangements seems to lead to "luxury hotel rock" in your music arrangements.

If I had Bowie's money, there's no doubt at all what I'd do. I'd commission Atelier Bow Wow to design my house. But, you know, it occurs to me that there's a reason rock stars, in general, have less-than-cutting-edge taste. If they were unremittingly avant, they'd never have got rich in the first place, because the large publics required to generate large fortunes are essentially conservative. In other words, a rock star rich enough to commission an avant-styled house is unlikely to have remained unaffected enough by his public and his rich peers to want something avant garde in the first place. It's impossible to be that popular without being, in your heart of hearts, somewhat populist in your tastes. And populist, when it comes to architecture, mostly means chintz.

To put that another way, if David Bowie had only made avant pop albums like "Lodger", he probably wouldn't have enough money now to commission the Atelier Bow Wow house he might well -- in that parallel world -- be inclined to crave.

70CommentReplyShare

ex_newironsh15
chris
Thu, Jan. 24th, 2008 01:47 am (UTC)

In other words, a rock star rich enough to commission an avant-styled house is unlikely to have remained unaffected enough by his public and his rich peers to want something avant garde in the first place. It's impossible to be that popular without being, in your heart of hearts, somewhat populist in your tastes. And populist, when it comes to architecture, mostly means chintz.

is this your constructivist theory of housing construction??


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Thu, Jan. 24th, 2008 02:01 am (UTC)

Is that what you call Constructivism? I call it Sod's Law!


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grzeg
grzeg
grzeg
Thu, Jan. 24th, 2008 02:49 am (UTC)

Neil Stephenson, Snow Crash: “You know those [hotel] rooms in high-rise casinos in Atlantic City, where semi-retarded adults from South Philly are put after they’ve blundered into the mega-jackpot? They got everything that a dimwitted pathological gambler would identify with luxury: gold-plated fixtures, lots of injection-molded pseudo-marble, velvet drapes, and a butler.”

Not that Bowie is semi-retarded or a dimwitted pathological gambler, but many people do have normative predispositions toward what ‘luxury’ is -- rock stars, notwithstanding.

Have you checked out Bow-Wow’s ‘Pet Architecture’ or ‘Da-Me’ work? Good stuff.


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pay_option07
pay_option07
Thu, Jan. 24th, 2008 03:09 am (UTC)
Fan-atic

One thing I learned about David is his ability to musically go from here to there without any one knowing or tipping his hand. He once if I remember moved to Berlin and lived alone anonymously before the trilogy release.
Also David's American tour was really defending some serious musical territory.From Real Cool World to Grunge/Indie.





It's safer to say what you see is what he is around!
Maybe an interview with the man from Brixton is on the horizon.


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pay_option07
pay_option07
Thu, Jan. 24th, 2008 03:13 am (UTC)
Re: Fan-atic

Spoof!




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(Anonymous)
Thu, Jan. 24th, 2008 03:09 am (UTC)

I see you have zep_out_door_6.jpg on your desktop. Is that the cover for "In Through the Out Door"? Rock on!


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(Anonymous)
Thu, Jan. 24th, 2008 03:58 am (UTC)

You should call your next album "Berlin Through the Out Door"--it would mark the return to your metal roots that fans have been screaming for these last few years.


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Thu, Jan. 24th, 2008 04:33 am (UTC)

Ah, I was brought up in a house with that same high-backed wooden chair, the one you have by the fireplace! And it was even broken in the same way (suggesting the diverging rails leading from the seat to the neck rest are a bit of a design problem).

I do find this a "trad" environment rather than an "avant" one, though, whatever recursive circles you think are going on, and it does occur to me that you've been able to realize your dreams so thoroughly because those dreams were not, to begin with, anything that would terrify Hollywood. If your book had endorsed a less populist style (and I can hear you spluttering with indignation at the word, but still, to me this is populist), would the film rights have been sold?

We reach another interesting paradox of conservative populism here: conservative populists tend to portray the stuff they don't like -- the kind of stuff championed on this blog -- as an established professional mainstream they're rebelling against. (This, for instance, is the argument of the Stuckists against the Serotans.) But, while it's true that the avant style has become the status quo within a narrow cadre of the urban elite, the greater mass of the general public clings to conservative values. For this "trad mass", avant is still avant: it is still ahead of them. They're waiting for its revolutions to become sufficiently anaemic and familiar before they embrace them. Which they will, the way they eventually embraced Impressionism, Post-Impressionism, Fauvism, and so on: a century or so late.


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Surely not - (Anonymous) Expand

Re: Surely not - (Anonymous) Expand
microworlds
microworlds
Sparkachu Maelworth
Thu, Jan. 24th, 2008 06:02 am (UTC)

Oh dear, do I have to do another one of those slash videos with you in it? You make it so easy, Momus.


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electricwitch
electricwitch
For anything, oh! she´ll bust her elastic
Thu, Jan. 24th, 2008 08:24 pm (UTC)

If you do a Bowie/Momus/Sylvia threesome one I will love EVEN MORE forever than I already do.


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stanleylieber
stanleylieber
Stanley Lieber
Thu, Jan. 24th, 2008 07:05 am (UTC)

How do you explain the mainstream popularity of Ikea?

$2.99 bookshelves


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(Anonymous)
Thu, Jan. 24th, 2008 07:44 am (UTC)

I read somewhere that Bowie once bought a place in Kyoto but haven't seen it mentioned elsewhere and don't know if it is true. Given your interests and the theme of this piece it seems you are just the man to ask.


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Thu, Jan. 24th, 2008 07:48 am (UTC)

He did have a place in Kyoto, yes. In Gion, I think. He still had it when he married Iman, because they spent their honeymoon there, or some of it.


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(Anonymous)
Thu, Jan. 24th, 2008 10:10 am (UTC)

To put that another way, if David Bowie had only made avant pop albums like "Lodger", he probably wouldn't have enough money now

I'm not so sure. "Lodger" was no flop. "Boys Keep Swinging" was quite a big hit, and so was "DJ" I think. In other words, it successfully combined commercialism with avant pop. And that's the thing about Bowie (and about a certain strand of 70s culture): not that he was some sort of elitist experimentalist, but that he made experimentalism commercial. He wanted to be an entertainer, but the 70s allowed him to be an arty entertainer. In a way, his decline is less his fault than the culture's, which changed in the 80s in a way in which it made it much harder to do 'art' in a commercial sphere.

I'm a little intrigued by your relationship with Bowie: he maybe your "favourite celebrity" but he always seems to come in for some stick on Click Opera. You're always disappointed!


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(Anonymous)
Thu, Jan. 24th, 2008 10:15 am (UTC)

Actually, "commercial" is probably the wrong word, it's more about populism: what makes Bowie great is that he came up with an "arty populism" that was only really viable in the 70s.


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qscrisp
qscrisp
Thu, Jan. 24th, 2008 10:29 am (UTC)
The Temple of the Golden and Very Glittery Pavilion

What would you say to the Mishima style of decor (in an interview in an arts magazine he refuted that the native Japanese taste was all muted and wabi-sabi shibui, and said the Japanese have always like all things that are gold and glitter). The article was a bit of a Lloyd Grossman on his house. I have the magazine somewhere, and it leads me to believe that the representation of his house in the film was fairly accurate.

What would you call that style? Rococo with a touch of Greece?

Love the Philip Glass score, by the way.

Anyway, I'm sure if I had the money, I'd be tempted to do a Mishima. But then again, I wouldn't be able to keep it tidy, so it would be a bit of a waste.


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Thu, Jan. 24th, 2008 10:46 am (UTC)
Re: The Temple of the Golden and Very Glittery Pavilion

It's quite an odd combination of styles, Mishima's house (as represented by Schrader and his designers, anyway).

Chintzy-yet-Stoical, Westernized / Grecian, a bit 1950s retro (like certain ivy-clad cafés you find in Japan), definitely gay (the statues in the garden), also slightly nouveau riche.

I had a chapter in my novel based on a scene from this film, but I nixed it.


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electricwitch
electricwitch
For anything, oh! she´ll bust her elastic
Thu, Jan. 24th, 2008 01:00 pm (UTC)

MOMUS, TELL MY FRIEND LINDE THAT GOING TO SEE YOU ON SATURDAY WILL BE MORE FUN THAN STAYING AT HOME.

ps: "It's impossible to be that popular without being, in your heart of hearts, somewhat populist in your tastes." CAMP ISN´T JUST A ROW OF TENTS.


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trickseybird
trickseybird
Bruce Springsteen, you're not the boss of me
Thu, Jan. 24th, 2008 01:03 pm (UTC)

So, do you think he was jerking off over Bowie or the house design?


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(Anonymous)
Thu, Jan. 24th, 2008 01:05 pm (UTC)

"If I had Bowie's money, there's no doubt at all what I'd do. I'd commission Atelier Bow Wow to design my house."

I thought you were an avowed lifelong renter.


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Thu, Jan. 24th, 2008 01:23 pm (UTC)

Oh, I'd rent it out to myself.


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trickseybird
trickseybird
Bruce Springsteen, you're not the boss of me
Thu, Jan. 24th, 2008 01:07 pm (UTC)

oh silly momus, Bowie doesn't have a personality.

Also, lol stalking him like a big fangirl.


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(Anonymous)
Thu, Jan. 24th, 2008 01:45 pm (UTC)

Hello. As is very few news about Heath Lodger in my own country. I am found your blog for Heath Lodger news. How sad to say! And yet thank you for this article!


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vonbruckhousen
vonbruckhousen
Thu, Jan. 24th, 2008 04:48 pm (UTC)

lmao

no really


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mylifeismundane
mylifeismundane
the missus
Thu, Jan. 24th, 2008 02:36 pm (UTC)

yay, we independently have the same favourite bowie album! heart.


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