Ziggy slays AR
Explore the singer’s world with David Bowie Is AR.
David Bowie is
The AR Exhibition
The immersive app David Bowie Is brings you into a museum experience dedicated to the iconic musician, actor and artist.
Using augmented reality (AR), the app creates 360 degrees of sights and sounds, seen through your iPhone and iPad, as you interact with over 400 artefacts from Bowie’s personal archive.
Among them are 56 of his costumes, 60 sheets of original lyrics and costume designs, 33 sketches and drawings as well as seven of his paintings. You’ll also hear Bowie – and narrator Gary Oldman – explain why and how he created his oeuvre.
Although the app was conceived and built by developer Planeta after Bowie’s passing in 2016, the artist’s creative stamp is very much present. He helped to curate the Victoria & Albert Museum exhibition on which the app is based, which toured the world for five years.
“Since David Bowie had so much input, we really didn’t change the order of what you see or how things are grouped,” says Dan Brewster, Planeta lead developer. “The app is true to the original exhibition’s vision, but you can see things more closely and manipulate things in ways you couldn’t do in a museum.”
With the help of AR, you can view each item as a 3D rendering, as though it were right in the room with you. Tap on a handwritten note and you’ll get close enough to see how hard Bowie was pressing his pen into the paper. Walk around a costume to look from every angle and observe even the smallest details – right down the texture of the material and the craftsmanship of each stitch.
As in the museum exhibition, David Bowie Is is organised by rooms that capture distinct creative periods in Bowie’s life. There’s one dedicated to his songwriting; another to his stage and screen work. You’ll find rooms themed around his early childhood influences in London, his life in New York City as an adult and his collaborations with Alexander McQueen, Brian Eno and Kansai Yamamoto.
Move through these in any order you’d like – Brewster says Bowie insisted that the exhibition not fall into a chronological timeline.
The app is now the only way to see any of these artefacts. When the tour ended in July 2018, everything was photographed and 3D-scanned for the app, then locked away for preservation.
“Given that David Bowie always embraced new technologies and new ways to reach people, it felt perfectly suited to bring all this to AR,” Brewster says. “And since there really is no other app out there like this, it feels like he’s still breaking new ground.”