20 March 2015

A view from David Lynch: Between Two Worlds exhibition at GOMA and talk at QPAC

Words: Saskia Edwards
Images: Jonathan Rae
Artwork: David Lynch

David Lynch sits on a cubic leather chair across from another David, David Stratton.

And in QPAC’s Concert Hall it seems fittingly bizarre and cinematic.

Giant copper-coloured organ pipes hang over the two greats of film and the stage is dressed for a performance by the Queensland Symphony Orchestra (or as David Stratton accidentally called it ‘the Queensland Sympathy Orchestra’).

Their bodies are a complete contrast. David Stratton sits back languidly with his legs crossed (exposing his socks) while Lynch hunches forward and rests his elbows on the arms of the chair, holding his microphone in two hands.

David Lynch looks almost exactly like I expected, if not a little shorter and softer: a tsunami-like quiff sits on his head like a tuft on an exotic bird. And he wears a black suit with a slim tie - his collar a little skew-whiff.

The audience is coated in red light, somewhat like the red room.

And of course, the crowd is littered with Lynch diehards who have come to congregate in the presence of their strange deity. They’re all dressed in their most eccentric outfits - some channelling Audrey Horne, others Henry Spencer. 

Lynch begins by talking about ideas - something he brings up a lot. You come to realise obscure ideas like “a dead girl”, “a severed ear” and a “moving painting” are the premises for some of his greatest works.

“The best thing in the world is ideas,” says Lynch.

“None of us do anything without an idea - even if you look in the cupboard and there’s no coffee, you get an idea to go to the store and get some coffee.

“So there’s ideas for everything. And I love to try to take ideas and catch an idea that I fall in love with. And then I know exactly what to do.

“Stay true to that idea and translate it to one medium or another.”

When Lynch is answering he looks almost pained. His eyes are tightly closed, his brow furrowed, like he’s trying to conjure an image of what he’s saying in his mind. It’s the way you would if you had to describe someone in a facial composite. And at times he grasps his right hand in front of him when he talks as if he’s trying to hold onto a concept or grope his way around its silhouette.

Stratton goes on to ask Lynch about his transcendental meditation practice.

“Each of everyone of us human beings has I feel within us a treasury within us,” he says.

“This treasury is known by many names, but it’s like an ocean of pure consciousness - pure bliss. Unbounded, this field is. Unbounded, infinitive, eternal, immutable, immortal consciousness...

“Within everyone of us is unbounded intelligence, unbounded creativity, bliss, happiness, love, energy and peace.”

And David Lynch’s intonation is almost meditative itself as he speaks in a distinct fluid phrasing. His voice is somewhere between John Wayne and Stan Lee.

The talk is dotted with little intimate insights into Lynch’s career. Like the time Mel Brooks was given the script for ‘The Elephant Man’.

“Fate plays a huge role in our lives. No one would believe that someone would pick me and Eraserhead to do a Victorian drama...

“Mel is a very interesting fellow and he’s an abstract thinker.

“He loved it [The Elephant Man script] and he said, ‘you’re in you’re in you’re in and who is this David Lynch?’

“And they said ‘Mel, you’ve got to see Eraserhead’ and so I said, ‘Listen guys, it’s been great knowing you’.

“So Mel watched it and after the screening they made me come to his room...

“And the doors burst open and Mel was running toward me and embracing me and said, ‘I love you, you’re a mad man’.”

Then there was this anecdote about dancing with Federico Fellini’s wife Giulietta Masina at the premier of ‘Blue Velvet’.

“I got to dance with Giulietta Masina on opening night in Montreal.

“We opened the dancing of this party, dancing together, it was so beautiful, such a beautiful soul she was.

“Imagine that.” 

Some of Lynch’s answers are less formed. Kind of like a stream of consciousness that no one else really understands. At the end of a lot of the responses David Stratton pauses, seemingly thinking, ‘Is that it?’.

But a there's a little bit of sadness for Twin Peaks fans; Lynch can’t confirm a new season. He say he’d been writing the script for four years and had been in contract negotiations for a year, but nothing had been finalised.

An arc of David Lynch’s talk is that he refused to comment on the meaning of his work. Like every viewer had to bring their own interpretation of the pieces and he wouldn’t interfere with that perspective.

But he also spoke about what it’s like to complete a project.

“Nothing is ever really perfect, but it’s finished and it feels complete and then there’s a very good feeling and it opens the door to the future.

“Until a thing is finished, you can’t really think to much about other things. So when a thing is finished a door is opened and you start thinking about new things.”

In the end, I left the talk with ideas whirring in my head; animated by David Lynch’s mysterious and complicated imagination. 

Perhaps it’s much like the maestro’s movies, and unlike the gel-capsule-coated films of Hollywood; you can never really walk away from a David Lynch.

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