Name： Lin Wang
Course ： Sem 2
Date： JUN 15
One of the most iconic pieces of Brooklyn Museum, “Tokyo Pop” is a vinyl body suit made by Japanese designer Kansai Yamamoto. The suit is specially designed for David Bowie, one of the most famous English songwriter and actor of all time. Specifically, David Bowie wore this vinyl bodysuit in his Aladdin Sane tour in 1973. After I read through Real Bodies, I gained a much deeper understanding of “Tokyo Pop”, how David Bowie’s identity and the clash of two cultures forged this masterpiece.
One of the most important ideas in Real Bodies lies in the following quote:
The body is both the property of the individual and the social world: it is the vehicle of identity, but this identity has to be ‘managed’ in terms of the definitions of the social situation which impose particular ways of being on the body. 1
According to Real Bodies, our way of the dress does not only belong to our bodies but also to the social world as well. Throughout the process, we get to learn more about our identity and how we place ourselves in the society. Thus, in my opinion, what we choose to wear also sends a message to the environment around us. The dressed body acts as a medium through which we get to tell the world what we want to express.
We see that this piece of clothing is designed to be very much different from any existing stage clothing of that time. We can tell that the suit is made from the reflective vinyl material with white lines running across the entire suit. Even by today’s standards, the suit’s design is very much science-fictional. If anything, it looks like a piece of clothing from another civilization of another planet. But, it fits David Bowie perfectly. This is because David Bowie is a trendsetter. He sends his messages to the society through his music, film, and clothing. According to Yamamoto, he especially made the material vinyl stronger and thicker so that is would be stiff and stands out when David wears it.2 Clearly, defying the social norm and breaking boundaries is part of Bowie’s identity.
The mix of Eastern and Western culture is also evident in this piece of art. “Cloth, and the tailoring practices that shape it gives form to the body’s presentation in culture.”3 It is very apparent that the bodysuit is stitched symmetrical between left and right. The white lines meet in the middle perfectly. Raised in Japan and China, I deeply understand how important symmetry is. Symmetry is deeply emphasized in every aspect of my culture. Being symmetrical is achieving the highest order in most things since symmetry is closely associated with perfection. For Yamamoto, it might go even beyond that as he recounts “I think a mysterious chemical reaction was triggered to occur in the mixture of the different natures.” According to Yamamoto, this piece of clothing is the result of a “precious encounter.”4
David Bowie only made one request regarding his exhibition. It is that the tour would start in London and finish in New York City. I now see why this is really important to him. The clothing he wore is deeply connected to his surroundings, environment and the culture in which he was brought up in. I know for certain that if I were to visit Brooklyn Museum a second time, I would take on a much different perspective walking through the different pieces of David Bowie stage clothing on display.