David Lynch made a rare public appearance last night at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) for an hour and a half discussion with New York Public Library’s director of public programs Paul Holdengräber.
Though Lynch was resistant for most of the evening to Holdengräber’s line of questioning (when Holdengräber’s presented Lynch with a still from “Blue Velvet” asking “Why this grass? Why this ear?,” Lynch responded, “You would have to see the film”), Holdengräber did manage to suss out some fascinating reveals from the filmmaker/artist/musician.
Below are the ten things we learned about Lynch at the event.
Lynch started digging under the surface of things as a child.
Asked when he started to become interested in the “insanity and absurdity of things underneath the surface,” Lynch said, “as a child,” and added that he continues to think like one. “[Children] see without any kind of judgment. They see the same things, but it’s very magical. They try to make sense of it. And it’s more like a dream. And hopefully it’s a beautiful dream. Sometimes when you pass a house and you see that the door’s closed, the window blinds are closed… You wonder what’s going on in there. We all get feelings from places. Some feelings are happy feelings, and some places don’t put out such happy feelings. I had a very happy childhood. But I think as we all look in, there seems to be something more. And in the air there can be happy feelings, and then there’s some kind of feeling that’s like a worrisome, fearful feeling.”
Subways fill David Lynch with fear.
“When I first started coming [to Brooklyn,] I was very little,” Lynch said. “I remember all the cars on the street were black, all the brownstones had awnings, and there was a canopy of beautiful trees on the top covering the street. There was such an elegance. It made a big impression on me. And then I think this Dutch Elm Disease came — or something happened to the trees — and cars became multicolored, and after a little while, drugs got introduced, crime came in, the place turned into a hellhole. And it went down and down until the eighties, I believe, and then it started coming back up. Just walking down into the subway filled me with fear. Even today, walking down into the subway fills me with that fear.”
Lynch is not a man of many words.
When told by Holdengräber that it was “treacherous” to interview him, Lynch responded dryly: “Words…they’re not really necessary.”
Lynch doesn’t see the merit in explaining his work to the masses.
“It limits it,” Lynch said, when asked why he’s reluctant to talk about his work in detail. “It stops people from intuiting and thinking on their own. Nothing should be added. Nothing should be subtracted. A film, a book, a painting— it’s done, and this is it. There’s a comfort when your ideas are realized. You’ve worked so that all the elements are working together and it feels complete and correct. Then you say it’s done. Then it goes out into the world but it doesn’t need any more explanation. It is what it is. In cinema, cinema is such a beautiful language—as soon as people finish a film, people want you to turn it into words. It’s kind of a sadness—for me, the words are limiting. Whereas this language is the language that you love. The language of cinema. It’s about love, is what it’s about.”
Lynch smoked as a child.
When asked to comment on a piece of art by him showing a young boy with long arms extending out to a matchbox, Lynch said, “I loved smoking cigarettes as a child. I loved matches. I loved lighting matches. The experimenting that children can do…discovering the world and discovering fire.”
Ideas come to Lynch like a TV in his mind.
When asked how he comes up with his ideas for his art, Lynch said, “It comes like on a TV in your mind. They’re beautiful gifts. Desiring an idea is like a bait on a hook. You can pull them in. If you catch an idea that you love, that’s a beautiful day. And you write it down. That idea might just be a fragment of the whole, but now you have even more bait. Thinking about that small fragment, that little fish, will bring in more. Pretty soon you might have a script. Or a chair, or a painting, or an idea for a painting. More often than not, small fragments. In the other room the puzzle is all together, but they keep flipping it one piece at a time.”
Lynch likes to go to diners to think.
“I always say there’s a beautiful thing about a a diner. Your mind can go into dark places, but you can always return to the warmth and comfort of a well-lit diner. It’s a nice place to think.”
Lynch on sugar:
“I thought for a while of sugar as granulated happiness.”
Playing the electric guitar thrills Lynch.
“It’s thrilling for me to play an electric guitar. I like to think of it like a gasoline powered engine. Running rough, with a bad muffler.”
Lynch is a big Kanye West fan.
“I love ‘Blood on the Leaves,'” Lynch said. “I think it’s one of the most modern pieces. So minimal, powerful, beautiful.”
Watch this two-minute clip from the conversation below: