"For David, mystery is his muse.” - Isabella Rossellini
The Festival of Disruption, curated by David Lynch, moved coasts to Brooklyn for its third annual installment, and offered the director and artist’s followers a weekend-long program of daytime Q&A sessions, immersive multimedia installations, and film screenings in tandem with night-time programs of live music and visuals in the Brooklyn Steel nightclub.
A central emphasis of the event was the connection between Transcendental Meditation (TM) and creativity. Lynch has practiced TM for decades, and it is central to his artistic process. Beyond enabling the creative process, the David Lynch Foundation advocates for TM as a benefit to individuals ranging from at-risk students to military veterans through its therapeutic potential. Placards on the floor were printed with phrases from Lynch’s book on TM and creativity, “Catching the Big Fish,” such as, “Don’t fight the darkness…Turn on the light.”
Of particular interest was actors Isabella Rossellini and Kyle MacLachlan’s moderated talk on the making of “Blue Velvet” (1986) and the film’s evolving cultural reception over the years. MacLachlan observed that in “Blue Velvet,” “Twin Peaks,” and throughout Lynch’s oeuvre, “these worlds are real…those characters are real to him,” and framed the works partly as conversations between Lynch and his creations. These meticulously constructed worlds feel uncannily real and lived-in as well as somehow skewed, motivated by a mythopoetic impulse that combines the classic Hollywood fantasy of “The Wizard of Oz” with the darker urges of film noir and an unabashed, shocking violence informed by surrealist aesthetics.
This sense of the artistic world of Lynch infiltrating real life and taking over was also on view in the winking merchandise on offer, from “Twin Peaks” hotel-themed stationery and beers (“Log Lady Lager”) to custom Polaroids placing fans inside the fevered imagination of Henry Spencer from Lynch’s early career triumph, and his first after beginning to practice TM, cult favorite “Eraserhead” (1982). This latter keepsake from the Festival of Disruption was part of the “Eraserhead Experience,” an immersive installation that placed viewers on the black and white, dramatically lit stage where the film’s iconic Lady in the Radiator performed the climactic song, “In Heaven.”
“In Heaven” was composed for “Eraserhead,” and provides a melodic, serene counterpoint to the film’s overall sound design that primarily features industrial atmospherics and noises that sound like crashes. Later covered by the Pixies, among other groups, this is an example of the profound impact David Lynch has had on music since the 1980’s, and how music profoundly informs his practice. Few other film-makers are as associated with music as Lynch is, and musical performances within his films are often the most memorable scenes.
To put it in terms of Lynch’s “Twin Peaks” series, which returned with a season of new episodes in 2017, the transition of day to night programs was somewhat akin to moving from the gently haunted daytime world of Twin Peaks High School, to the deep-woodland haunt of “the Roadhouse,” a nocturnal site of psychic and physical transformations.
Musical performances featured alternately hypnotic and disorienting visual spectacles that complemented the Festival’s animating impulse of liberating the unconscious mind, creating a symbiosis of creative energy shared between artists and attendees. Animal Collective played a largely improvised set with morphing imagery suggesting at times aquatic flora and petri dish microorganisms blown up to enormous proportions. Flying Lotus unleashed a harrowing spectacle of white lights flashing and blurring in and out with film snippets, like a lightning storm within a film projector. He also dropped the “Twin Peaks” theme at strategic intervals which set the crowd off even more.
Isabella Rossellini observed during her Q&A that, “…for David, mystery is his muse.” With the Festival of Disruption, Lynch provides a treasure map for visitors to follow, reaching closer to the pulsing heart of the mysterious in his work.