Friday, 5 October 2007

You Need Your Disco/Your Disco Needs You


The Kylie Exhibition at Glasgow's Kelvingrove Gallery is compact, but effective, just like the good lady herself. Indeed, the tiny size of most of the outfits is jarring at first, like staring into the (far too saucy) wardrobe of an abnormally rich child.
Once you readjust to the perspectives in question, the whole affair becomes far more entertaining. There's something inherently funny about the setting -- to see some folk adopting their reverent, museum-visiting posture while the video for 'I Should Be So Lucky' blares in the background and the outfit Kylie wore in the 'Spinning Around' video rotates on a pedestal is to observe a clash of cultural expectations.
It's all very exciting, in its unashamedly garish way -- there are more versions of Kylie than there are of Batman, and she has enough spangly outfits to make Dita Von Teese blush, as evidenced by the packed room full of tour outfits, video costumes, photos and concept sketches at the Kelvingrove.
In her time Kylie's been eighties pop trash, a soap-opera star, a camp cop, a fairy princess, a showgirl, a cyborg, and much much more. The records have been up and down, but I'll maintain that for a period at the start of the current century Kylie was one of the best pop acts out there. Then again maybe it's simply the case that albums like Fever and Body Language finally saw Kylie transform into the kind of pop star I'd like to listen to. Kylie's less histrionic about her constant reinvention than Madonna is, but she's no less persistent for it.
Hmmm... perhaps the idea that this is an overgrown child's wardrobe is of some value after all. Looking at the variety of costumed personas on display in this exhibit, you can see a child's ideal of ultimate freedom -- the ability to keep changing who you are, to keep playing dress up, to lose yourself in disco heaven. Okay, maybe that last part is more of a teenage dream, but still, it can begin to look exhausting, this life lived in constant flux. You see, the tricky thing is that in order to keep living like pop royalty, you have to be everything to everyone all the time. This kind of freedom is probably exhilarating, but it comes at the price of having to keep on changing, forever afraid that one day no one will care.

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