The “David Bowie Is” Exhibition Is Now Available as an Augmented Reality Mobile App That’s Narrated by Gary Oldman: For David Bowie’s Birthday Today

Maybe it’s too soon to divide pop music his­to­ry into “Before David Bowie” and “After David Bowie,” but two years after Bowie’s death, it’s impos­si­ble to imag­ine pop music his­to­ry with­out him. Yet, if there ever did come a time when future gen­er­a­tions did not know who David Bowie is, they could do far worse than hear Gary Old­man tell the sto­ry. Luck­i­ly for them, and us, Old­man nar­rates the new David Bowie aug­ment­ed real­i­ty app, which launch­es today on what would have been the legend’s 72nd birth­day.

Bowie and Old­man were both born and raised in South Lon­don. They became friends in the 80s, starred togeth­er in Julian Schnabel’s 1996 film Basquiat, and col­lab­o­rat­ed on the 2013 video for “The Next Day,” in which Old­man plays a sleazy, duck­tailed priest. As much the con­sum­mate changeling in his medi­um as Bowie, Old­man brings a fel­low craftsman’s appre­ci­a­tion to his role as docent, with­out any sense of star-struck­ness. “I see him less as ‘David Bowie,’” he once remarked, “and more as Dave from Brix­ton and I’m Gary from New Cross.”

The app is based on the sen­sa­tion­al 2013 Vic­to­ria & Albert muse­um exhi­bi­tion David Bowie Is, which trav­eled the world for five years before end­ing at the Brook­lyn Muse­um this past sum­mer. Focused on “the colour­ful, the­atri­cal side of Bowie,” Tim Jonze writes at The Guardian, the show drew “a stag­ger­ing 2m vis­i­tors” with its stun­ning breadth of cos­tumes, props, sketch­es, lyrics sheets, film, and pho­tog­ra­phy. The dig­i­tal ver­sion intends, how­ev­er, not only to “recre­ate the expe­ri­ence of going to the exhi­bi­tion,” but “to bet­ter it.”

Learn how “Dave from Brix­ton” (or Davy Jones, before a Mon­kee of the same name came along) made “sketch­es propos­ing out­fits for his teenage band the Delta Lemons (brown waist­coats with jeans).” See how that young aspir­ing croon­er learned to love “hikinuki—the Japan­ese method of quick cos­tume change that he exper­i­ment­ed with dur­ing his Aladdin Sane shows at Radio City Music Hall.” The exhi­bi­tion bril­liant­ly ful­filled his own wish­es for his lega­cy. “As Bowie him­self puts it,” Jonze writes, “he didn’t want to be a radio, but a colour tele­vi­sion.”

Bowie prob­a­bly would have been pleased to have his friend Gary host­ing his vari­ety show. But does the AR app match, or bet­ter, the real thing? It’s “no match for see­ing the cos­tumes in real life,” or see­ing Bowie him­self in the flesh. But for the mil­lions of peo­ple who nev­er got the chance—a cat­e­go­ry that will soon include everyone—it may cur­rent­ly be the best way to expe­ri­ence the musician/actor/writer/one-man-zeitgeist’s career in three dimen­sions. See a pre­view of the app from Rolling Stone, above, and down­load the AR David Bowie Is for iPhone and Android via these links. The cost is $7.99.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Stream David Bowie’s Com­plete Discog­ra­phy in a 19-Hour Playlist: From His Very First Record­ings to His Last

The Thin White Duke: A Close Study of David Bowie’s Dark­est Char­ac­ter

David Bowie Memo­ri­al­ized in Tra­di­tion­al Japan­ese Wood­block Prints

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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  • Catfeather says:

    Saw the show in Brook­lyn and it was amaz­ing. You men­tioned the price is $7.99 today, but I went to the app and it is still $9.99. I would have liked to have saved the $2, but it’s total­ly worth the price. Huge fan, David Bowie defined my life, his loss was a tragedy.

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