Step into the Lynchian world of oddities

by Jeff Hammond and Jeff Michael Hammond

Special To The Japan Times

While mostly recognized as the director of such films as “Eraserhead,” “Wild at Heart” and “Mullholland Drive,” David Lynch has long turned his hand to other media. About 80 of his works, encompassing photography, painting, music and short films are being brought together for an exhibition at the Laforet Museum. “David Lynch: Chaos Theory of Violence and Silence” includes some of his early pieces as well as those created in recent years, which are being shown in Japan for the first time.

The exhibition opens with two small selections of black-and-white photographs reflecting, respectively, his concerns with the human body and with the industrial world, with its detritus of disused and desolate buildings. While still photography is a relatively late departure for Lynch, his work as a painter goes way back. As an art student it was the desire to see one of his paintings move that prompted him to animate it, setting him on his filmmaking path. On a perpetual loop is “16MM Experiments from 1968,” a 21 minute-long collection of Lynch’s early efforts. In one section he uses mirrored human and insect forms to create some de-familiarized and bizarre imagery.

From more recent years is “Rabbits” (2002), which Lynch originally made for his own website. The random-sounding lines recited by three actors with large rabbit masks seem to have been deliberately thrown out of order but hint at what could be a recognizable story — a dark and mysterious secret — if pieced together “properly.” Playing with conventions and expectations, such as incongruous canned audience applause and laughter, “Rabbits” is probably the most demanding TV sitcom never televised.

Lynch’s paintings can jump from what appear to be simple anecdotes with questionable depth — like the watercolor “Truck Lifts Rock By Tower” (2012), showing a truck lifting a rock by a tower — to multi-layered, puzzle-like mixed-media pieces such as “Red Pipe” (2009). Often, these include written phrases, printed out clearly, roughly etched into the paper or at times blacked out as to be indecipherable. When they don’t describe the picture’s content frankly, they contribute cryptic commentary, such as the scrawl “Animal Run… Dog Run There” in “Red Pipe.”

The larger paintings, some measuring several meters square, often feature figures with extraordinarily elongated arms struggling with everything from love for the girl next door to their deepest, most disturbing thoughts and dreams.

While a mixed affair, the exhibition will surely intrigue Lynch fans, who will be able to see, for example, how the recurring motif of fire seen in many of his films can be traced back to his very first cinematic outing and still be found in his very latest works.

“‘David Lynch: Chaos Theory of Violence and Silence” at the Laforet Museum Harajuku runs till Dec. 2; open daily 11 a.m.-8 p.m. ¥800. www.lapnet.jp/event/event_l121110.