You Can’t Go Home Again (Notes on Twin Peaks: The Return, Part 1)

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1.1. Obsession as Fuel

David Lynch always returns to important influences in his art, as evidenced by the childhood memories found in the text and imagery of his paintings, the obsessive focus on stark contrasts of light and shadow in his photography and cinema, and a deep reservoir of knowledge of the space in which he works. As a director, for which he is arguably most known (although he is a musician, writer, painter, photographer, and more), Lynch creates what appears to be a complete vision that incorporates references as disparate as jazz (think, Fats Waller in 1977’s Eraserhead), Transcendental Meditation (Dale Cooper in the first season of Twin Peaks), and unexpected and extreme violence. He mixes many iconic but superficial images of the American Dream (Blue Velvet’s white picket fences, the cherry pies of Twin Peaks, and the factories associated with progress and drive and American innovation of another era) with actual dreaming, including a large dose of dream logic included in all of his narratives.

Note: Although Twin Peaks: The Return is essentially two creative artists in David Lynch and Mark Frost, I often refer to the elements discussed as originating with Lynch. This decision is made due to the repetitive occurrences of these elements in Lynch’s other work.

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This phrase is repeated in The Return (2017) by Al Strobel as Mike.

Lynch brings beacons associated with the cultural consciousness into every work he creates. Two of the most often referenced are The Wizard of Oz (1939) and Sunset Boulevard (1950), which bookend the violence of WWII and the atomic bomb. Anyone who watched or heard anything about the newest season of Twin Peaks recognizes the influence of this example of extreme violence in Lynch’s work. Wild at Heart (1990) is a kind of fractured homage to The Wizard of Oz, and characters embody the attributes associated with the original. Echoes of Sunset Boulevard are found throughout his Mulholland Drive (2001). These cinematic obsessions are connected. Both deal with time and the loss of it. In Sunset, the main character is no longer a screen icon. She watches as time moves on without her. To console herself, she weaves a dream narrative of her own identity. In Oz, the character has lost time completely. Dorothy is transported to another world that operates with a completely different set of rules. When she eventually gets back home, she tells her family that they were all there in the dream world with her. Time moves but is also stuck. In the world of Oz, Dorothy is trapped for days. In our reality, she is just out cold for a short while.

The character and actor names of both films are used for much of the cast of Twin Peaks. Norma Desmond, the name of the aging actress of Sunset, can be found in Norma of the Double R and Agent Desmond of Fire Walk With Me (1992). The name of Dorothy Gale’s actress, Judy Garland, can be found in the Judy associated with evil and Major Garland Briggs. Even the name of Lynch’s own agent, Gordon Cole, was revealed to have been pulled from a line in Sunset Boulevard from this newest season of Twin Peaks.

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Both The Wizard of Oz (1939) and Twin Peaks: The Return (2017) begin in muted sepia or B&W.

Twin Peaks: The Return contains many allusions to The Wizard throughout, including the red shoes we have come to associate with Audrey being worn by many female characters, including minor players such as the waitress at Judy’s in episode 18. There is the fact that both The Wizard and Twin Peaks: The Return both begin in muted tones of sepia or B&W. This, in the 1939 film, indicates the reality that often lacks the color of our imagination. In Twin Peaks, it may indicate something similar. That means one would need to decide whether the series is taking place in a dream (as Gordon Cole would plainly express later in the series) once we see the world washed in color or if it’s taking place in reality. Maybe it’s both.

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Lynch’s reference of the red shoes or ruby slippers throughout Twin Peaks: The Return (2017)

If there is one thing I have gleaned from watching Twin Peaks and the rest of his work, I don’t believe David Lynch has the ability to compartmentalize. Even if he does have this ability, he does not use it. Anything is possible, and connections are everywhere.

Time and memory are important considerations when viewing any of Lynch’s work, but I found them vital with The Return.

1.2. We Have Always Lived In the Castle

Listen

to the sounds.

It is in

our house now.

Dale Cooper listens closely to a small sound, maybe a scraping or clicking sound. This sound is repeated in the very last scene of the series, when Cooper and Laura Palmer (or Carrie Page) are at what we thought was the Palmer residence. Perhaps these scenes take place at the same point in time, separated only in our perception of the events. Perhaps it is just a foreshadowing of what will come.

Either way, the past and future are completely intertwined. Allusions to the first “version” of Twin Peaks show up in every aspect of the new series. The new characters are often distorted reflections of former characters, street names in new cities reflect important characteristics of the Twin Peaks of Seasons 1 and 2, and much of the dialogue feels out of time. The whole series is constructed in a way that that makes linear narrative hard to discern. But, it works. It moves through repetition or echo of imagery and dialogue.

Sometimes there is no action, only sound, in a frame for long stretches of time (like at the Palmer residence, where the camera stays in the living room, but the audience clearly hears some disruption off screen/out of frame). This is jarring and uncomfortable, and the director knows this. We are supposed to feel like we are losing something, like we are entering an uncertain narrative.

There is a deep sense of mystery because, as the Fireman states at the start, “it all cannot be said aloud now.” It also cannot be shown completely. The clues come in backwards speaking and hosts of visual signs. The recurring “seed” or “birth” symbols come in the forms of tiny gold spheres and larger egg-like atomic bombs. Mostly, there is no rationale or narrative conclusion for why these occur…but the mid-season episode that was just the actual dropping of an atomic bomb and the birth of evil was completely unexpected.

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The atomic bomb (b. July 16, 1945, New Mexico, USA): pic.twitter.com/65SyGQPnR8
— Brandon Shimoda (@brandonshimoda) July 17, 2017

The journey back to Twin Peaks for Cooper, and later for Laura, is an impossible one. Like Homer’s Odyssey (by the way, Odessa is the feminine for Odysseus), the return home will not be easy. There are challenges.

When they return, are they really the same? Odysseus wasn’t recognized by Penelope upon return, and Laura/Carrie is only recognized by Agent Cooper. The Man from Another Place (AKA The Arm) has explained (at the end of Season 2 of the original run) that the next time we see him, it won’t be him. Not only is that true for The Arm, which came back as a tree with an amorphous head…but, all characters have changed. The new residents of the Palmer home, Alice Tremond, we have seen before. In another form, she was a resident (with her grandson) at the trailer park and the apartments in the original run of the show. She has been called “Chalfont,” but both identities have been references to the same person.

The uncertainty of reality and dream, the unreliable “main characters,” and the non-linear narrative make this run of the series hard to navigate.

There is so much to consider. That’s what art should do, propel our thinking, open our minds to critical reflection. In the examination, we may even learn something about ourselves. I can’t make sense of much of what I’ve seen in the series, but there are plenty of signs to return to for the next few months. Much of what I have shared here is rambling, and I think that is much of what I have read about the current work. But, there are some great critical essays out there. Here are a couple of places to find some help deciphering what you may have watched this summer:

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Poem Beginning and Ending with Lines from The Doobie Brothers

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Somewhere back in her long ago

Every station moves to create

Time not made of now leaves life

She’s everywhere and nowhere


Swells sing above the static

Of pop songs misremembered

As oracles   dream lovers   dis

Associated       disappeared


She doesn’t identify us apart

From viscid evenings spent

Outside of one another again

Echo rises to her apology

A Partial Record of My Education

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“Those who love wisdom must investigate many things.” – Heraclitus

“I write-and talk-in order to find out what I think.” – Susan Sontag

In 2014, I graduated with my doctorate in education, and this seemed miraculous to me. A sustained focus, logical arguments, and the synthesis of an area of literature were inherent in the task of writing a dissertation, and I didn’t feel like I’d ever be able to live up to this challenge. As a child, I felt most comfortable with image and sound based communication. Music and visual art are such a large foundation for my thinking. I’m pretty certain this had to do with my mother taking me to museums and libraries, playing records in the living room regularly, and encouraging my growing interest in drawing.

Images could convey ideas that were both at the surface of my thinking and buried in my subconscious. Painting or creating something visually interesting and potentially communicative was something that came naturally. The imagery did not have to mirror reality. It could be completely conceptual. I was driven by the need to play with things that had an uncertain end. Not being driven to an actual destination, instead being propelled forward with intuition and curiosity, liberated me from having to make any sense of what I might be feeling in a way that would communicate to another. It was a drive to create.

This drive has pulled me in many directions at once. I have obsessively composed with sound, painted primarily textural (if not always aesthetically pleasing) images, and sometimes incorporated sound with paintings. Notes and small drafts of “diary” or journal entries have always been included as well. The outcome of these experiments was a amalgam of forms. I’m never quite certain how a thing may turn out…what form or hybrid it may take finally. I don’t even know if the outcome is the final version of a thing.

My default thinking is in fragments. If there are connections between the ideas or works, I have no knowledge of it during the process. It is always a dive into the unknown.

The past two months have included more than a few occurrences of fragmented thinking and organization that has not yet solidified into a coherent statement or group of thoughts. My regular lists of reading, listening, and watching have increased. I have rapid and incomplete connections between ideas and forms (text, image, sound, memory, etc.).

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March-April 2017 Notebook, Thinking in Lists (more)

Recently, I have been reading Sloterdijk’s Spheres trilogy (Bubbles, Globes, and Foams) that have finally been translated, Hito Steyerl’s The Wretched of the Screen (2013), Kate Zambreno’s Book of Mutter (2017), Kafka’s late writings, Wittgenstein’s late writings on culture and aesthetics, Kadinsky, Susan Sontag, a biography on Eric Dolphy, so many disparate essays, and massive amounts of poetry.

Lately, I have been awed by the visual artwork of Rosy Keyser, Titus Kaphar, Fernando Zobel, Hito Steyerl, Julie Mehretu, Rebecca Horn, and Agnes Martin.

As I have written before, my sister told me once that whatever I put into my head must eventually come out. In what form will it arrive?

It eases my mind to know that others seem to have the same attraction to this process of discovery (like Sontag’s diary entry below).

From Sontag’s As Consciousness is Harnessed to Flesh: Journals and Notebooks, 1964-1980 (with my scribbles)

Probably due to the Sloterdijk, the fact that Eleanor is beginning to trace the letter O, and my attraction to the simplicity of the ensō, circles and spheres have dominated my visual thinking. I seem to find them everywhere. From the Book of Genesis to NASA’s documentation of space trash, I seem to collide with imagery that represents a circular/spherical containment or a cyclical process.

 

Day 5 of Creation (Book of Genesis Illustration, 1493 Nuremberg Chronicle)

From Alberto Manguel’s Curiosity (2015)

Iannis Xenakis- from Formalized Music: Thought and Mathematics in Composition (1992)

Iannis Xenakis- from Formalized Music: Thought and Mathematics in Composition (1992)

Quotes re: Phenomenology, Body, & Language

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“Saying that I have a body is thus a way of saying that I can be seen as an object and that I try to be seen as a subject, that another can be my master or my slave.” – Merleau-Ponty, The Phenomenology of Perception (1962)

“This is why I write: to unfold the electrical mat of my nervous system.” – Bhanu Kapil, Ban En Banlieue (2015)

“The enlightened man says: I am body entirely and nothing beside.” -Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra (1883)

“Our own physical body possesses a wisdom that we who inhabit the body lack. We give it orders which make no sense.” -Henry Miller, Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymous Bosch (1957)

“My favorite arts are the ones that can move your body or make a new world.” -Anne Boyer, Garments Against Women (2015)

“Writers…were out there creating a new language, one that I intuitively understood, to analyze our art, our world. This was, in and of itself, an argument for the weight and beauty of our culture and thus of our bodies.” -Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me (2015)

“The fluidity of the injured body’s referential direction is here manifest in the verbal habit of evoking all casualties as a single phenomenon once the war is over.” -Elaine Scarry, The Body in Pain (1985)

“There is only one antidote to mental suffering, and that is physical pain.” -Karl Marx

Education within the context of oppression includes “teachers talking about reality as if it were motionless, static, compartmentalized, and predictable. Or else he expounds on a topic completely alien to the existential experience of the students. His task is to “fill” the students with the contents of his narration-contents which are detached from reality, disconnected from the totality that engendered them and could give them significance. Words are emptied of their concreteness and become a hollow, alienated, and alienating verbosity…Education thus becomes an act of depositing, in which for the students are the depositories and the teacher is the depositor. Instead of communicating, the teacher issues communiqués and makes deposits which the students patiently receive, memorize, and repeat. This is the “banking” concept of education, in which the scope of action allowed to the students extends only as far as receiving, filing, and storing the deposits. They do, it is true, have the opportunity to become collectors or cataloguers of the things they store. But in the last analysis, it is the people themselves that are filed away through the lack of creativity, transformation, and knowledge in this (at best) misguided system. For apart from inquiry, apart from the praxis, individuals cannot truly be human. Knowledge emerges only through invention and re-invention, through the restless, impatient, continuing, hopeful inquiry human beings pursue in the world, with the world, and with each other.” -Paulo Freire, The Pedagogy of the Oppressed (1970)

“Shifting how we think about language and how we use it necessarily alters how we know what we know.” -Bell Hooks, Teaching to Transgress (1994)

“We take the oppressor’s language and turn it against itself. We make our words a counter-hegemonic speech, liberating ourselves in language.” -Bell Hooks, Teaching to Transgress (1994)

“We reconstruct for ourselves the order of the world in an image, starting from limited, countable, and strictly defined data. We work out a system for ourselves, establishing connections and conceiving of relationships between terms that are abstract and for that reason possible for us to deal with.” -Simone Weil, “Forms of the Implicit Love of God” (from Waiting for God, 1951)

“This is the crime of which I accuse my country and my countrymen, and for which neither I nor time nor history will ever forgive them, that they have destroyed and are destroying hundreds of thousands of lives and do not know it and do not want to know it.” -James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time (1963)

“Let us keep in mind the speech of the depressed- repetitive and monotonous. Faced with the impossibility of concatenating, they utter sentences that are interrupted, exhausted, come to a standstill. Even phrases they cannot formulate. A repetitive rhythm, a monotonous melody emerge and dominate the broken logical sequences, changing them into recurring, obsessive litanies. Finally, when that frugal musicality becomes established on account of the pressure of silence, the melancholy person appears to stop cognizing as well as uttering, sinking into the blankness of asymbolia or the excess of an unorderable cognitive chaos.” – Julia Kristeva, Black Sun (1989)

Fragments as Compositional Style

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Composition as Fragments- List and Thoughts (January 2015)
  • Maggie Nelson- Bluets
  • Susan Sontag– anything, but the second diary is the best. To pair that with her essays of the period re: photography, film, and visual art is mind-blowing.
  • Jenny OffillDept. of Speculation
  • Emily DickinsonEnvelope poems. The essay by Susan Howe is worth the price of the book. Just Google the terms “Dickinson” and “envelope poems”…you’ll be amazed.
  • Wittgenstien– especially his writings around culture and value…but the Tractatus and Investigations are both consumed with language and are basically amazing.
  • And of course…some others I’m thinking of as I write…Emil Cioran, Paul Valery,

Maybe, we are writing more like we think. This is my thinking about any postmodernistic trend that has turned to many individuals writing in fragments. I believe the fluidity of the writing tool (computer) and the publishing tool (internet) have allowed writers to start creating as the thoughts come. That is not always a good thing…bad writing, etc.

Also, it could be the result of really looking at our collective cultural history in a fragmented way. This is how history is largely taught, completely separate from art, from mathematics. We spend a great deal of our lives (if we are even interested in these things) in realizing that Van Gogh was painting his masterpieces at the same time as Jack the Ripper was murdering (thanks to Patton Oswalt’s new book, Silver Screen Fiend, for this reference). What we have from the past prior to publishing seems to disappear.

Even film and music succumb to decay in memory and in practicality-

Example 1 (film created from the destruction of the actual film…like a distorted memory)- Bill Morrison’s Decasia

Example 2 (disintegration of tape, played as it self-destroys)- Basinski’s Disintegration Loops
As usual, I’m just jotting these thoughts as they arrive, with little to no editing…and, this will make little to no sense to anyone else. It is probably just a map of my thinking about random ideas. Obviously, fragments and decayed artistic works and memory are possibly linked but not in any really tangible way. At least, I can’t communicate well enough to make the link tangible at this time.