2017 Keynote – Sean Redmond

Bridging Gaps:
National Identity in Persona, Branding, and Activism

University of Western Australia
Perth, Australia
December 8-10, 2017

David Bowie: Starring in Cameo
Sean Redmond, Deakin University

In this talk I will explore the way David Bowie performs in and through the role of the film and television fiction cameo. I will suggest that he brings the complexity of his shifting star image to each cameo performance, drawing on competing artistic traditions as he does so. I will make use of the parameters of posing and mimicry, self-reflexivity and cultish subversion, and the shifting ground of modernism and postmodernism to show how Bowie’s cameo performances are not singular or consistent but refer to the specificities of the text in question, the other authors and actors involved, and to the multi-grain nature of his star self. When Bowie embodies a cameo role, a series of intersecting performance registers are in play that suggest he is always in cameo.

The three texts that I have chosen to talk through are, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (Lynch, 1992), Zoolander (Stiller, 2001), and Extras (the ‘David Bowie’ episode, 2006, Gervais). These texts occur across film and television, artistic and commercial streams, and take place over a 20-year performance period, allowing one to see how Bowie embodies and breaks-down the very constituents of the cameo role. I will be predominately using those texts where David Bowie appears as David Bowie, the exception being Twin Peaks where he takes on the ‘disappearing’ role of FBI Agent Phillip Jeffries.

The questions that will frame my reading of these cameo performances are, which David Bowie is being brought into view? How is the text using him, and why? How does David Bowie starring in cameo help us better understand stardom and celebrity more generally?

 

Bio: Sean Redmond is Director of Deakin Motion Lab: Centre for Creative Arts Research, Deakin university. He is the author of Celebrity and the Media (2014), Co-editor of The Wiley Companion to Celebrity (2015), and he is the editor of the journal Celebrity Studies, short-listed for the best new academic journal in 2011. Sean has research interests in stardom and celebrity, film and television genre, sound and aesthetics, drawing on phenomenology as he does so. He is currently in the process guest editing a Special Edition of The cinema Journal on the films of David Bowie (2018), and is completing a co-authored book on fandom and David Bowie (Palgrave 2018) amongst other projects.