What’s Your Reaction to the Show?

UK 1988. Dir Dick Jewell.

Filmed over the course of a week using a mix of Kodak and Ektachrome Super-8 stock, Dick Jewell captures the outlandishly self-styled club icon Leigh Bowery in his first art performance at London’s Anthony D’Offay Gallery. It is a unique document of the show presented through a combination of shots of Bowery sensuously posing on a chaise longue and visitors’ reactions to him. In the performance, the dramatically-lit Bowery was separated from the audience by a one-way mirror in which he could silently and ‘narcissistically’ contemplate his image, the total work of art that was his fashion design, hair, make up and assembled jewellery; it was the same image that was offered to the outside world. Many of the audience (who included Bowery’s friends such as the dancer Michael Clark and the fashion designer Andrew Logan) clearly found this form of encounter with the notoriously boisterous Bowery a new aesthetic experience. Although Bowery used to joke that he liked to ‘appeal to maybe one or two people’, his influence across fashion, costume design, art and music has been immense. Sublime, hilarious, sometimes unsettling but always effervescent, his unique position of dandy-meets-clown-meets-sculpture defied established conventions of creative practice and creative being in the world.