One Hour of David Lynch Listening to Rain, Smoking & Reflecting on Art

At this point, there’s no need to point out the dan­gers posed by smok­ing. Those who do it these days do it in full knowl­edge of the health risks involved, for rea­sons of their own. Some­times those rea­sons are artis­tic ones: “I had this idea that you drink cof­fee, you smoke cig­a­rettes, and you paint, and that’s it,” says David Lynch in Jon Nguyen’s doc­u­men­tary David Lynch: The Art Life, describ­ing his youth­ful con­cep­tion of what it was to be an artist. “Maybe girls come into it a lit­tle bit, but basi­cal­ly, it’s the incred­i­ble hap­pi­ness of work­ing and liv­ing that life.” Though much bet­ter known as a film­mak­er than a painter, Lynch has nev­er stopped liv­ing that life, cig­a­rette-smok­ing and all.

The “you drink cof­fee, you smoke cig­a­rettes, and you paint” line sur­faces in the audio mix of the video above, which mash­es up that and oth­er of Lynch’s obser­va­tions from var­i­ous places and times with looped footage of him silent­ly smok­ing and lis­ten­ing to the rain falling out­side. Most of his words here have to do with “the art life”: how he con­ceives of it, how he lives it, and how he made his way into it in the first place.

Some of them will be well famil­iar to long­time Lynch fans, not least his notion that, when it comes to get­ting the ideas with which he builds his work, the “lit­tle fish” swim on the sur­face of con­scious­ness, but the “big fish” — the stranger, more pow­er­ful ideas that lead, pre­sum­ably, to a Blue Vel­vet or a Mul­hol­land Dr. — inhab­it the kind of depths acces­si­ble only through med­i­ta­tion.

Along with such pieces of Lynchi­an advice come expres­sions of enthu­si­asm, mem­o­ries from his younger days, and reflec­tions on his­to­ry, soci­ety, and nature, all of them sim­i­lar­ly decon­tex­tu­al­ized and backed by an omi­nous-sound­ing piece of music. The result­ing ambi­ence isn’t entire­ly unlike that of Lynch’s delib­er­ate­ly dis­turb­ing sit­com Rab­bits, but it also fits in with the bur­geon­ing genre of long-form Youtube videos opti­mized for relax­ation val­ue. Thir­ty years ago, when each movie or tele­vi­sion show he made seemed to sur­pass the last in sheer weird­ness, we entered Lynch’s world in order to be unset­tled, to see and hear things at once inex­plic­a­bly com­pelling and obscure­ly hor­ri­fy­ing; in the twen­ty-twen­ties, we go there to unwind.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

An Ani­mat­ed David Lynch Explains Where He Gets His Ideas

Bertrand Rus­sell Explains How Smok­ing Para­dox­i­cal­ly Saved His Life

David Lynch Explains How Med­i­ta­tion Enhances Our Cre­ativ­i­ty

Cig­a­rette Com­mer­cials from David Lynch, the Coen Broth­ers and Jean Luc Godard

An Anti, Anti-Smok­ing Announce­ment from John Waters

Two Short Films on Cof­fee and Cig­a­rettes from Jim Jar­musch & Paul Thomas Ander­son

Based in Seoul, Col­in Marshall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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