The Leigh Bowery Resurrection – Germany
Leigh Bowery was a performance artist and avant garde fashionista. Ostracised by the mainstream, he was ushered to the fashion industry’s outer perimeter, where he resided with contempt and inspiration, couturier to the left-field.
Being denied his childhood dream of becoming a designer fuelled a subversive streak, pushing him to explore oddity and test boundaries. His style was a cannonball of horror and exaggerated haute couture – a catwalk viewed through the lens of strong acid.
AIDS claimed him at age 33. But the residue of Bowery’s still glistens. His spiritual home is Berlin, a city that thrives on individuality, where clubbers enjoy unfettered freedom, unshackled from any tight-minded conformity. It’s easy to find his reference points littered amongst the nightlife. Extravagant weirdness is on full display; large shaved men, whitewashed with luminous lego pieces peppered around their bodies; or ballooned collagen lips, pierced and neon glossed. It’s peacocking on a different level, and in many ways provides a stark dissent from today’s toned down, blend-into-background fashion ethos – something arguably more powerful now than in Bowery’s era of the 80’s, where flamboyance and excess were default settings.
Clubs like Berghain and Kit Kat lift much of their eccentricities from Bowery. His performance art shocked, toeing the line of pageantry and obtuse degeneracy. The use of bodily fluids and consumption of urine on stage were infamous cornerstones of his act. His message obscured by every movement. But that legacy lives on. Whilst being a serious techno club, the Berghain also operates no-holds-barred fetish nights, flag-bearers for Bowery’s legendary polysexual nightclub Taboo. If you’ve ever attended, you certainly get a sense of his ghostlike stewardship, pushing attendees further into self expression, until they’re experimenting well beyond the line in the sand.