Signs of Morality in David Bowie's "Black Star" Video Clip

Philosophy Study 7 (12) (2017)
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“Black Star” music video was released two days before Bowie’s death. It bears various implications of dying and the notion of mortality is both literal and metaphorical. It is highly autobiographical and serves as a theatrical stage for Bowie to act both as a music performer and as a self-conscious human being. In this paper, we discuss the signs of mortality in Bowie’s “Black Star” music video-clip. We focus on video’s cinematic techniques and codes, on its motivic elements and on its narrative in relation with music, lyrics, characters, and gestures. We also discuss the video’s intertextual references and the broader signification of the black star figure. We adopt a quasi-semiotic approach considering “Black Star” music video-clip as a text which can be investigated through its signs, codes, and conventions of the musical, visual, and cinematic languages as well. Our interdisciplinary tools derive from visual semiotics and audiovisual analysis models, without leaving outside Bowie’s musical-artistic and personal history. As it turns out, Bowie created a video clip that is philosophical in nature and poetic in structure, preserving the role of protagonist. With the visuals creating a psychedelic atmosphere, the lyrics often are heard as a personal confession. They both generate cognitive and emotional responses that influence the way the viewers-listeners may experience, decompose, and interpret Bowie’s artistic endeavor bridging life and death.

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