Should Leigh Bowery have been able to even sit down in one of his inspirational and totally mesmerising costumes – which, to be honest, seems unlikely – he would have always been more than welcome to have a seat at our table.
At a time when RuPaul’s Drag Race alumni are loudly proclaiming the subversive nature of dressing up and gender fluidity while, at the same time, flogging their merch. to teenage girls at DragCon, its perhaps useful to remind ourselves just how subversive you need to be to even begin to compete with his joyful and extravagant anarchy.
To call Leigh Bowery merely ‘outrageous’ is really to miss the point entirely. He cast himself in the role of the ultimate spectacle, not just for its inevitable shock value and to satisfy his all encompassing need to seek attention, but more as a potent commentary on the banal, the mundane, on sex, politics and the nature of appearance itself. By distorting his body though the use of unorthodox fabrics, patterns and forms as well as the disguise of makeup, he used fashion to achieve whatever his extraordinary imagination desired – however aggressive, confrontational or disturbing it might at first appear.
Now that any thought of originality has been sucked and sucked and sucked out of style, his devotion to ideas and not just the image seems even more pertinent and urgent than it did in the 80s when he terrorised both London’s club and art scene. He’s sorely missed.