Waiting for the Gift: Velvet Goldmine and the Bowie-Image

Neither David Bowie nor Romanticism are explicitly named in Todd Haynes’s 1998 film, Velvet Goldmine; but this essay takes on Haynes’s fictional account of the origins of “glam rock” to reflect on Bowie’s Romanticism and Romanticism’s Bowie. The essay approaches the topic using what Brian Eno called “oblique strategies” and what Walter Benjamin called “constellations”: Percy Shelley and Oscar Wilde, Benjamin and Bowie, Todd Haynes. At the center of this “constellation” is the “Bowie-Image,” an image of and about the Romantic image and what Shelley would call its “electric energies” or what might be called its “currencies” for Romanticism and for the “sounds and visions” of contemporary popular culture.