In non-profit space Decad, novelist and filmmaker Christopher Petit presents his first Berlin-based exhibition entitled ‘In What’s Missing, Is Where Love Has Gone’. Using a pixelated image of the late David Bowie from the film ‘The Man Who Fell to Earth’ (1976) as a stimulus, the four works presented are an examination of a quiet voyeurism that speaks to internal, often inexpressible observations surrounding popular, repetitive images. Petit’s formation of an audio-visual space, in partnership with curators Louisa Elderton and Jelena Sang, speaks to a personal feeling of misrepresentation that can only be digested in fragments.
In one sense, Petit exploits the mystery around the artist. The film ‘Take It Or Leave It’ (2017) is a ripped loop from a YouTube clip of ‘The Man Who Fell to Earth’. For many, this film is a popular representation of Bowie’s notoriously evolving style. The clip is periodically interrupted with a burnt orange freeze frame, leaving gaps in the linear sequence. Much like a painter, Petit has inserted a stop-gap, applying a new narrative layer to the image of a man who had always strictly controlled his aesthetic presence.
This visual image of Bowie is complimented by the sound installation ‘Coming Down in Berlin’ (2017). The soundtrack of Petit’s film ‘Radio On’ (1979) – which includes songs written and performed by Bowie – is interwoven with ‘The Man Who Fell to Earth’, Petit’s spoken stream of consciousness and ambient noises. Overshadowing the dialogue of the film, the soundscape acts as an internal voice for the moving images. In the aftermath of his passing, these additional thoughts illuminate potential griefs the artist may have had in and amongst the demands of fame and music contributions.
As a whole, the exhibition works on addressing the imbalance of duality. Petit is not speaking on behalf of the musician, nor does he necessarily wish to bridge the gap between Bowie the artist and Bowie the family man. Instead, he fires statements and questions at this division. Having worked together on ‘Radio On’, there is a sense that Petit is looking at the time between ‘The Man Who Fell to Earth’ and the latter collaboration. In replacing Bowie’s voice with blurry, pixelated images, Petit withholds Bowies ability to narrate himself.
In his poem ‘No Show’ (2017), written as an accompaniment to the image ‘Show No Show’ (2017), Petit writes: ‘We live in an age of distraction (and apology) / screens actual and psychological / a screened world’. Like us, Petit looks back on his relationship through frames and digital images. As a replacement of tangible and lived experiences, Petit takes on arbitrary images that celebrate a communal fascination with a global star. If anything, ‘In What’s Missing, Is Where Love Has Gone’ recognises the enigma that was Bowie but looks towards the man that lived underneath.
Christopher Petit: In What’s Missing, Is Where Love Has Gone was curated by Louisa Elderton and Jelena Seng for Decad.