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Twin Peaks / The Art Life

Twin Peaks, 1990, dir. David Lynch (still)

Possibly because my initial viewing of Twin Peaks: The Return (2017) coincided with my watching David Lynch: The Art Life (2016), I couldn’t help but be aware of the veiled allusions to creativity that occur throughout the wider series (including Seasons 1 & 2). It seems to me that much of the series’ imagery and symbolism relates closely to Lynch’s experience of making art, rather than necessarily to a bespoke mythology (though I don’t of course discount the theological significance of the “Lodge Lore” debated by countless fans). I also wonder whether the creative collaboration of David Lynch/Mark Frost derives from two contrasting views of the medium and form of television, one view emanating from painting (Lynch’s view), the other from literary fiction (Frost). In view of Lynch’s continued activity as a painter I am struck by the possibility that Twin Peaks may be referring to art history in addition to cinematic/ televisual references. (<<< SPOILERS AHEAD >>>). Read more →

Where Dalí Meets Disney

In 1945, after a chance encounter with Disney at a cocktail party in Hollywood, Salvador Dalí was invited to collaborate on a short animated film entitled Destino. The project was eventually terminated in its preparatory phase, but a whole array of conceptual paintings (executed by Dalí himself) remained in the Disney archive, and, in 2003, the Walt Disney Company hired a team of French animators to complete the film based on the surviving sketches.  This was the version that toured in a number of highly publicised exhibitions, including the retrospective ‘Dalí and Film’ staged at the Tate in 2007, among other international venues. Read more →

About ‘The Great Macguffin’

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Laurence Figgis, The Great Macguffin (detail), 2005-12, ink, crayon, watercolour on paper, 160 x 350 cm

I first stumbled on the (great) MacGuffin in 2005, when I was searching for a title for a piece of work that was then in production, a large scale ink and watercolour drawing that had occupied my attention for some months. I was still in the throes of making this work when I read Alfred Hitchcock’s account of the term in his seminal interview with François Truffaut. And I knew straight away that I had found not only the title for the work but also the name for its protagonist, the imaginary character (part human, part animal, part machine) with whose fortunes the drawing is principally concerned. The word itself struck me with its amusing lyric – or rather non-lyric -quality; I liked the heavy, cumbersome, down-to-earth sound. But the explanation behind the word was just as captivating.

‘MacGuffin’ is Hitchcock’s term for a pretext or plot device that in its typical and most intellectually satisfying form must always be radically under-explained within the diegetic narrative.  In many cases it would not hold up to rational scrutiny if the audience subjected it to any attention.  Thus in Hitchcock’s film Notorious (1946) we are led to assume  that particles of uranium (viable for atomic capability) can be stored in wine bottles in the form of a crystalline black dust, hidden in the chief antagonist’s cellar. Read more →

American Gothic

Chaos, Anachronism and Modernity in Eyvind Earle’s Sleeping Beauty 

Gustave Doré, Illustration for Charles Perrault’s La Belle au Bois Dormant in Les Contes de Perrault, 1867​

The philosopher of anachronism, Jeremy Tambling, has argued that what is ‘postponed’ appears as anachronistic. Drawing a metaphor from the world of modern travel, he writes that jet-lag (décalage horaire or ‘time-gap’ in French), ‘places one time (that of the body) inside another [time], literally postpones it’ (Tambling, 2010: 16). The Beauty in Charles Perrault’s famous story for children, published in 1697—he first of its kind to be called La Belle au Bois Dormant (‘The Sleeping Beauty in the Wood’) —, is herself an anachronism, a body ‘postponed’—a figure from the ancient past recalled to life. And the Prince, who helps her to rise, is struck with embarrassment. For though she is fully dressed (and quite magnificently), she is dressed just like his great-grandmother – in the fashion of a century before – and wears a ‘point-band’ peeping over her collar (Perrault, 1992: 89). Read more →

The Sentimental-Sublime

In the autumn of 1927, Salvador Dalí wrote to his friend Frederico Lorca denouncing the much-admired contemporary Spanish poet, Juan Jiménez. The latter, according to Dalí, is a ‘putrid marasmus’ who ‘has never ever seen anything, only receives mangy emotions from things’ (qtd. Ades, 1994: 139).  Dalí was especially outraged by Jiménez’s famous story Platero y Yo (1914), an account of the poet’s beloved companion Platero, a donkey, and their bland sojourns through pastoral scenes.  As Dawn Ades has speculated, Dalí’s violent dislike of this gentle, sentimental story may have contributed to the appearance of the rotting donkey as a visual image in such paintings as Honey Is Sweeter than Blood and as a verbal parody in written communication between Dalí and Lorca. In one such letter dated early December 1927, Dalí signs himself… ‘your ROTTING DONKEY’ and adds, ‘may…Platero…die’ (qtd. Ades, 1994: 139).

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