Leigh Bowery 3 and 4 http://post.ly/igsF
The extraordinary personage of Leigh Bowery has had an enormous influence on visual culture - across fashion, art, music and performance.
The legacy that Leigh Bowery has left; the great works of art, the funny film clips, the 'cultural industry', the fashions, his style, is like a surrealist garden of surprising delights. He was a dandy and a great eccentric in the tradition of Curricle Coates, Bunny Rodgers, Barbara Cartland, Dame Edith Sitwell, and Quentin Crisp. His posthumous fame deserves to flourish. There is talk of a film of Sue Tilley's biography in the pipeline, now THAT is a film I can't wait to see.
previously unseen film footage of Leigh Bowery
by Nick Knight
Leigh Bowery in conversation with
Honolulu, Christophe Lambert and Richard Torry
'The Legacy of Leigh Bowery' by Donald Urquhart
The Legacy of Leigh Bowery by Donald Urquhart
Last year I helped Nicola Bowery to catalogue Leigh's costumes in preparation for 'Take a Bowery: The Art and (larger than) Life of Leigh Bowery', the exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney, Australia. This involved carefully going through all of Leigh's costumes, listing and describing them, and then photographing them with Gary Carsley, the exhibition's curator. It was exhausting work, especially as the weather was bizarrely hot; lugging bulky and heavy costumes from Nicola's attic and arranging them with their correct accessories, then checking we had managed to photograph them all. "What shoes did he wear with that? Shall we check the Fergus Greer? Which way up does this go?" Often the costumes looked sad and deflated when we put them on the wooden stand, so we would have to pad them out as best we could, and we had to find a wig block to photograph the hoods and headwear on. I managed to charm the man in the local charity shop into lending us one from his window display - a slightly grubby but male polystyrene wig block. Perfect.
Poppers. Now that takes me way back. Pre-drugs, by which I mean pre-ecstasy, every gay club stank of stale poppers. You'd be dancing and there would be bottles of poppers being passed around, and it was a rarity to be passed a fresh bottle. Believe me, there is nothing more disgusting than a whiff of gone-off old poppers. There's many an outfit I've had ruined by poppers via disco spillages.
When I met Leigh
Without too much autobiography (because you want to be reading about Leigh Bowery), I will tell you a bit of my story to show you where I'm coming from. I grew up in Dumfries, and when I left home lived in Glasgow for a couple of years.
Bowery as Art
I was asked recently by a Hoxton-type woman what Leigh Bowery did? "Nobody knew what he did," she said, perplexed. "He dressed up and went to clubs and parties and enjoyed himself. He lived his life as he had to live it," was my answer.
2002 the whole Leigh Bowery legacy was putting on quite a circus. Here follows a few things I wrote for QX magazine at the time.
In Bed with Boy George
Draped deliciously over the curving incline of George's grandiose headboard in his elegant boudoir, I wondered for a second how the hell I had got there.
Devotion to the Arts
Mike Nichols is directing a film starring Boy George, in which George appears in a variety of Leigh Bowery's extreme fashion looks. Last Sunday they were filming scenes in Boy George's home in Hampstead in which George performs the song 'Ich Bin Kunst' from his musical 'Taboo'. If you haven't seen the show, it is a song sung by the Leigh Bowery character (it means 'I am Art', not 'I'm a cunt' ) .
The Boy George House stands at the edge of Hampstead Heath, and is in Victorian Gothic style, but of course you've probably seen many pictures of it by now. I'd seen plenty of spreads of 'At Home with Boy George' over the years in magazines, so had a rough idea of what it would look like. I was really taken aback when I walked in though. It wasn't imposing, it hadn't the feel of a stylised set-piece, or Pop Star Mansion: it feels like a home. I thought it was going to be like a 'feng-shui' version of a crack den, or at least as dramatic the house in Sunset Boulevard, but I'd plainly been tainted by untrue rumours. Oh, and there was no evidence of drugs. And NO BOOZE!
Many photos of Leigh's club-wear from 'Taboo' were shown as part of PP Hartnett's slideshow. Hartnett took hundreds of Polaroids at 'Taboo' (he was sponsored by Polaroid), and discussed the fashions of that era while showing a small selection. He was also promoting his new book on 'DIY' fashion.
Sue Tilley, 'Leigh Bowery: The Life and Times of an Icon', Hodder & Stoughton, London, 1997
The Legend Explored
I ran into Tony Gordon last weekend when I was out looking for orchids in Columbia Road Market. Tony was behind the club 'Taboo', although Bowery has always got all the credit for that legendary phenomenon.
Fergus Greer, 'Leigh Bowery', Violette Editions, London, 2002
Posthumous fame at last!
Charles Atlas' movie documentary, 'The Legend of Leigh Bowery' opened at the ICA last week for an all too brief run. Mr Atlas' has created a wonderful portrait of the artist by fusing archive footage, quotes, photographs, and comments from people who knew him. Here we see the many, many faces of Leigh, his revolutionary creations, and are reminded of his wit and talent for showing-off. If you didn't get to see the film don't worry as there are plans to show it on television soon, and no doubt it will surface at other film festivals. It is surely the best tribute to Leigh so far, and is going to be a must-have if it gets released as a video. AND I'M IN IT!
Charles Atlas, The Legend of Leigh Bowery, 2001, video, 83 minutes, [Electronic Arts Intermix, New York]
The Musical Legacy of Leigh Bowery
Richard and Matthew, and I can vouch for this having been on tour with Minty (post-Leigh), are great guys but they can be impossible at times. And 'flaky'.
This is the tip of the iceberg. I have, you will be frustrated to learn, much more on the legacy of Leigh Bowery to report, but you will have to wait.
View Donald Urquhart's exquisite and humorous pen and ink imagery of Leigh Bowery, drag culture and the fashion from his unique point of view.
Photography and Film: Nick Knight
Motion Image Direction: Adam Mufti
All sounds recorded and provided by Richard Torry from Minty rehearsal archive tapes.
Creative and Editorial Direction:
Paul Hetherington and Penny Martin
Curatorial Direction: Christabel Stewart
Project Design: Paul Bruty
Editorial Assistance: Laura Cricks
Thanks: Nicola Bateman Bowery, Donald Urquhart, Richard Torry
Leigh Bowery dedicated his life to the exploration of self-invention, and he used his own body as his canvas.
Donald Urquhart, born in 1963 in Dumfries, Scotland, is a writer, performer and artist.
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