‘David Bowie Is’ Exhibition In Melbourne Features Unique Australian Highlights

“David Bowie Is,” the hugely-successful exhibition that celebrates David Bowie’s life and artistic work, opens July 16 at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image in Melbourne. It’s the seventh global stop for “David Bowie Is,” but the ACMI version has a couple of unique elements.

Daniel Slater, senior exhibitions coordinator at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London where the show was created, told the Sydney Morning Herald the Melbourne exhibit will be the largest “David Bowie Is” so far.

“There are additions to the Berlin section and unseen material from ‘Let’s Dance’; obviously that’s very relevant to here as it’s where it was shot.”

Filmed in the summer of 1983, “Let’s Dance” features Bowie playing in a pub in the outback while two Aboriginal people attempt to enter white society. Director David Mallet called “Let’s Dance” and the video that followed, “China Girl,” “deliberately anti-racist,” according to the Herald.

The actors who played the couple, Joelene King and Terry Roberts, were enrolled at the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Dance Company, now known as Descendance. King told The Brisbane Times in May 2013 that Bowie came to the school in search of actors. She and Roberts were paid $1,000 each and given VIP access on Bowie’s Australian tour. Bowie also made a $10,000 donation to the school.

King said she had good memories of meeting Bowie.

“‘I was so painfully shy then, but I remember looking into his eyes and seeing he was a very warm-hearted person. That sort of brought me out of my shell, in a way. He was a wonderful person to be around.”

The video’s images were intended to portray the harsh conditions to which Aboriginal peoples were subject.

“Let’s Dance” 1983 from David Bowie on Vimeo.

The ACMI exhibit features costumes, video clips, handwritten lyrics, memorabilia, and various artifacts. It concludes with a concert-like experience of performances of Bowie projected onto large screens. The exhibition is self-guided but has a unique auditory experience, according to Chris Harris, senior manager of exhibitions and touring at the ACMI.

“It’s not like an audio guide where you have a narrative, you actually get your own individual experience as you walk through the exhibition.

“At the end you get to take them off and there’s this incredible show moment which is probably the biggest multi-screen projection we’ve ever done. It’s really like being inside a Bowie concert, it’s fantastic.”

“David Bowie Is” debuted in London and has since travelled to Toronto, Sao Paulo, Berlin, Chicago, and Paris. Melbourne is the show’s only Australasian stop. The exhibition runs at the ACMI until November 1.

[Image from ‘David Bowie Is’ at Martin Gropius Bau in Berlin, Germany on May 19, 2014. (Photo by Christian Marquardt/Getty Images)]