David Lynch Explains Why Depression Is the Enemy of Creativity–and Why Meditation Is the Solution

David Lynch has a vari­ety of notions about what it takes to make art, but suf­fer­ing is not among them. “This is part of the myth, I think,” he said in one inter­view. “Van Gogh did suf­fer. He suf­fered a lot. But I think he did­n’t suf­fer while he was paint­ing.” That is, “he did­n’t need to be suf­fer­ing to do those great paint­ings.” As Lynch sees it, “the more you suf­fer, the less you want to cre­ate. If you’re tru­ly depressed, they say, you can’t even get out of bed, let alone cre­ate.” This rela­tion­ship between men­tal state and cre­ativ­i­ty is a sub­ject he’s addressed over and over again, and the video above assem­bles sev­er­al of those instances from over the decades. It may come as a sur­prise that the auteur of Blue Vel­vetTwin Peaks, and Mul­hol­land Dri­ve, rec­om­mends med­i­ta­tion as the solu­tion.

That cer­tain­ly won’t come as a sur­prise, how­ev­er, to any­one famil­iar with Lynch’s world­view. Here on Open Cul­ture, we’ve pre­vi­ous­ly fea­tured Lynch’s expla­na­tion of how med­i­ta­tion boosts cre­ativ­i­ty, his draw­ing depict­ing how med­i­ta­tion works, his method of get­ting ideas through med­i­ta­tion, and his con­ver­sa­tions about med­i­ta­tion with the likes of Paul McCart­ney and Moby.

In the video below, he lays out how his favorite kind of med­i­ta­tion, the Tran­scen­den­tal vari­ety, has the poten­tial to dri­ve out not just depres­sion, but also neg­a­tiv­i­ty, ten­sion, stress, anx­i­ety, sor­row, anger, hate, and fear. These are grand promis­es, but not with­out inter­est to the non-med­i­tat­ing Lynch fan curi­ous about the mind behind his work, both of which were once wide­ly assumed to be deeply trou­bled indeed.

“Do you think you’re a genius, or a real­ly sick per­son?” CBC cor­re­spon­dent Valerie Pringle asks him in a Blue Vel­vet-era inter­view includ­ed in the com­pi­la­tion at the top of the post. “Well, Valerie,” he responds, “I don’t know.” He did not, at that time, speak pub­licly about his med­i­ta­tion prac­tice, but by the late nineties he’d begun to dis­cuss per­son­al mat­ters much more freely. In one Char­lie Rose inter­view, a clip from which appears in the video, he even tells of the time he went to ther­a­py. The begin­ning of this sto­ry makes it in, but not the end: Lynch asked his new ther­a­pist “straight out, right up front, ‘Could this process that we’re going to go through affect cre­ativ­i­ty?’ And he said, ‘David, I have to be hon­est with you, it could” — where­upon Lynch shook the man’s hand and walked right back out the door.

Relat­ed con­tent:

David Lynch Explains How Med­i­ta­tion Boosts Our Cre­ativ­i­ty (Plus Free Resources to Help You Start Med­i­tat­ing)

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

David Lynch Visu­al­izes How Tran­scen­den­tal Med­i­ta­tion Works, Using a Sharpie & Big Pad of Paper

Are We All Get­ting More Depressed?: A New Study Ana­lyz­ing 14 Mil­lion Books, Writ­ten Over 160 Years, Finds the Lan­guage of Depres­sion Steadi­ly Ris­ing

David Lynch Mus­es About the Mag­ic of Cin­e­ma & Med­i­ta­tion in a New Abstract Short Film

Charles Bukows­ki Explains How to Beat Depres­sion: Spend 3–4 Days in Bed and You’ll Get the Juices Flow­ing Again (NSFW)

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.

Music Producer Steve Albini, Director Godfrey Reggio & Actor Fred Armisen Explain Why Creating Is Crucial to Human Existence

Imag­ine, if you will, an evening’s enter­tain­ment con­sist­ing of an episode of Port­landia, a spin of Nir­vana’s In Utero, and a screen­ing of Koy­aanisqat­si. Per­haps these works would, at first glance, seem to have lit­tle in com­mon. But if you end the night by watch­ing the above episode of Big Think’s series Dis­patch­es from the Well with Kmele Fos­ter, their com­mon spir­it may well come into view. In it, Fos­ter trav­els Amer­i­ca in order to vis­it with God­frey Reg­gio, Steve Albi­ni, and Fred Armisen, wide­ly known, respec­tive­ly, as the direc­tor of Koy­aanisqat­si, the pro­duc­er of In Utero, and the co-cre­ator of Port­landia. All of them have also made a great deal of oth­er work, and none of them are about to stop now.

“When you have a mania, you can scream and go nuts, or you can write every­thing down,” says Reg­gio. “I write every­thing down.” The same con­cept aris­es in Fos­ter’s con­ver­sa­tion with Albi­ni, who believes that “the best music is made in ser­vice of the mania of the peo­ple doing it at the moment.” As for “the peo­ple who are try­ing to be pop­u­lar, who are try­ing to, like, enter­tain — a lot of that music is triv­ial.”

Fos­ter cred­i­bly describes Albi­ni as “a man with a code,” not least that which dic­tates his rejec­tion of dig­i­tal media. “I’m not mak­ing an aes­thet­ic case for ana­log record­ing,” he says. “Ana­log record­ings are a durable archive of our cul­ture, and in the dis­tant future, I want peo­ple to be able to hear what our music sound­ed like.”

To cre­ate as per­sis­tent­ly as these three have demands a will­ing­ness to play the long game — and to “re-per­ceive the nor­mal,” as Reg­gio puts it while artic­u­lat­ing the pur­pose of his uncon­ven­tion­al doc­u­men­tary films. To his mind, it’s what we per­ceive least that affects us most, and if “what we do every day, with­out ques­tion, is who we are,” we can enrich our expe­ri­ence of real­i­ty by ask­ing ques­tions in our life and our work like, “Is it the con­tent of your mind that deter­mines your behav­ior, or is it your behav­ior that deter­mines the con­tent of your mind?” This line of inquiry will send each of us in dif­fer­ent intel­lec­tu­al and aes­thet­ic direc­tions, impos­si­ble though it is to arrive at a final answer. And in the face of the fact that we all end up at the same place in the end, Armisen has a cre­ative strat­e­gy: “I real­ly cel­e­brate death,” he explains. “I have my funer­al all planned out and every­thing.”

Relat­ed con­tent:

How Walk­ing Fos­ters Cre­ativ­i­ty: Stan­ford Researchers Con­firm What Philoso­phers & Writ­ers Have Always Known

How TV Addles Kids’ Brains: A Short Film Direct­ed by God­frey Reg­gio (Mak­er of Koy­aanisqat­si) & Scored by Philip Glass

Read Steve Albini’s Uncom­pro­mis­ing Pro­pos­al to Pro­duce Nirvana’s In Utero (1993)

Fred Armisen Teach­es a Short Sem­i­nar on the His­to­ry of Punk

Koy­aanisqat­si at 1552% Speed

Why Man Cre­ates: Saul Bass’ Oscar-Win­ning Ani­mat­ed Look at Cre­ativ­i­ty (1968)

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.

Dance Like David Byrne! An Easy-to-Follow Instructional Video Shows You How

This dance is seri­ous. This dance is nec­es­sary. Do you feel that change? — David Byrne

Every­one can dance, though some of us need a push from an enthu­si­as­tic, encour­ag­ing instructor…like singer-song­writer David Byrne.

Move­ment has long been a hall­mark of the for­mer Talk­ing Heads frontman’s per­for­mances, when he was a pal­pa­bly ner­vous 23-year-old sol­dier­ing through one of the band’s first New York City gigs.

Byrne drove the danc­ing in Talk­ing Heads 1984 con­cert film, Stop Mak­ing Sense and has col­lab­o­rat­ed with sev­er­al notable chore­o­g­ra­phers over the course of his long and var­ied career.

In 1981, Twyla Tharp com­mis­sioned him to write the score for her phys­i­cal­ly demand­ing, exper­i­men­tal bal­let, The Cather­ine Wheel.

In 1999, he pro­vid­ed the sound­track for In Spite of Wish­ing and Want­i­ng, a 2‑hour work chore­o­g­ra­ph­er Wim Van­dekey­bus cre­at­ed for the men in his com­pa­ny, Ulti­ma Vez.

His most fruit­ful col­lab­o­ra­tion has been with Big Dance The­ater’s Annie‑B Par­son, who chore­o­graphed Byrne’s 2012 Love this Giant world tour with St. Vin­cent, as well as Here Lies Love, his 2013  immer­sive rock musi­cal about for­mer First Lady of the Philip­pines Imel­da Mar­cos. Most recent­ly, the pair worked togeth­er to adapt Byrne’s Amer­i­can Utopia tour for Broad­way.

In an inter­view with Vul­ture, Par­son recalled ques­tion­ing why some­one with Byrne’s nat­u­ral­ly cool phys­i­cal instincts would seek an out­side par­ty to han­dle the danc­ing:

I was like, Huh, you’re my favorite chore­o­g­ra­ph­er, what are you doing!? Being able to make move­ment for your­self and being a chore­o­g­ra­ph­er are quite dif­fer­ent, and he’s not inter­est­ed in mak­ing move­ment for oth­er peo­ple. He is a dancer. Some of the stuff he does in the show he total­ly made up for him­self.

No ques­tion about it. The man has moves.

Here’s Parson’s favorite:

He does this thing where he slaps his hands while cross­ing the stage in Slip­pery Peo­ple that’s so amus­ing to watch. He goes down on the ground at one point in Once in a Life­time and I asked him what he was doing, and he was like, “Um, I’m going down to the water in the ground.” He’s imag­in­ing things and feel­ing the music. “Loose” wouldn’t be the word because nei­ther of us are loose at all. He’s incred­i­ble as an artist in the way he thinks and acts on things. I’ve always felt that I have a huge amount of free­dom.

Feel the Byrne next time you hit the dance floor by head­ing back up to the top of this post and fol­low­ing along with his instruc­tion­al video for the social­ly dis­tanced par­tic­i­pa­to­ry dance expe­ri­ence he co-host­ed for two weeks in New York City’s Park Avenue Armory’s 55,000-square-foot Drill Hall.

If only every dance teacher showed up in such a buoy­ant mood (not to men­tion a util­i­ty kilt and Eng­lish sand shoes…)

Shake your hips!

Pup­pet legs!

Hold the traf­fic!

Vibrat­ing arms!

Those lucky enough to score one of the night­ly-assigned danc­ing spots that ensured SOCIAL!  would be, as adver­tised, a social­ly dis­tanced dance club, exe­cut­ed these, and oth­er dance moves, that Byrne’s pre-record­ed voice called for over the pow­er­ful P.A. sys­tem.

The New York­er gave a feel for the pro­ceed­ings:

Some parts were instruc­tions for line dances; oth­ers were more abstract (“Let me see you move like you’re in a new world”) or his­tor­i­cal (“This song is by the first inter­ra­cial band to play Carnegie Hall”); some were idio­syn­crat­ic Byr­nisms (“C’mon, baby, let’s think about your ten­dons”).

Reporters for Van­i­ty Fair and the New York Times (who felt reas­sured that Byrne is “him­self an invit­ing­ly imper­fect dancer”) list­ed some of the steps they’d attempt­ed at Byrne’s behest:

Hand-san­i­tiz­ing (“You’ve got too much! Flick it front, flick it behind!”)

Thread­ed through crowds on a New York City side­walk (“Don’t step on that piz­za!”)

Move like a zom­bie

Sub­way surf

Float a la Gaga



Reach for the rafters (“Maybe you’re rais­ing your hand in praise or to feel the light or to represent—or because you have a ques­tion. Is any­body answer­ing your ques­tion? So much uncer­tain­ty these days.”)

Pre­sum­ably, they, like Late Show host Stephen Col­bert, below, also learned to “pol­ish the plates.”

I Dance Like This by David Byrne

I’m work­ing on my danc­ing

This is the best I can do

I’m ten­ta­tive­ly shak­ing

You don’t have to look

Can’t say I’m sor­ry

I can’t say I’m ashamed

Can’t think of tomor­row

When it seems so far away

We dance like this

Because it feels so damn good

If we could dance bet­ter

Well you know that we would

For even more inspi­ra­tion, check out the Insta­gram account Dai­ly David Byrne Dances.

Relat­ed Con­tent 

Watch David Byrne Prac­tice His Dance Moves for Stop Mak­ing Sense in New­ly Released Behind-the-Scenes Footage

Watch a Very Ner­vous, 23-Year-Old David Byrne and Talk­ing Heads Per­form­ing Live in NYC (1976)

David Byrne Launch­es Rea­sons to Be Cheer­ful, an Online Mag­a­zine Fea­tur­ing Arti­cles by Byrne, Bri­an Eno & More

- Ayun Hal­l­i­day is the Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine and author, most recent­ly, of Cre­ative, Not Famous: The Small Pota­to Man­i­festo. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

by | Permalink | Make a Comment ( 1 ) |

An Early Version of Mickey Mouse Enters the Public Domain on January 1, 2024

Hap­py New Year!

We can now “do to Dis­ney what Dis­ney did to the great works of the pub­lic domain before him,” accord­ing to Har­vard law pro­fes­sor and pub­lic domain expert, Lawrence Lessig, hailed by The New York­er as “the most impor­tant thinker on intel­lec­tu­al prop­er­ty in the Inter­net era.”

On Jan­u­ary 1, Mick­ey Mouse and his con­sort, Min­nie, wrig­gled free of their cre­ator’s iron fist for the first time in cor­po­rate his­to­ry, as their debut per­for­mance in Steam­boat Willie entered the pub­lic domain along with thou­sands of oth­er 1928 worksLady Chat­ter­ley’s Lover, All Qui­et on the West­ern Front, and The House at Pooh Cor­ner to name but a star­ry few.

Dis­ney has been noto­ri­ous­ly pro­tec­tive of its con­trol over its spokesmouse, suc­cess­ful­ly push­ing Con­gress to adopt the Son­ny Bono Copy­right Exten­sion Act of 1998, which kept the public’s mitts off of Steam­boat Willie, and, more to the point, Mick­ey Mouse, for 25 years beyond the terms of the Copy­right Act of 1976.

But now our day has come…

Don’t be shy!

Dig in!

Dis­ney always did.

As Lessig remarked in a 2003 lec­ture at Prince­ton Uni­ver­si­ty:

Walt Dis­ney embraced the free­dom to take, change and return ideas from our pop­u­lar cul­ture. The rip, mix and burn cul­ture of the Inter­net is Dis­ney-famil­iar.

Cin­derel­la, Snow White, Pinoc­chio — Uncle Walt knew how to take lib­er­ties and make mon­ey with cap­ti­vat­ing source mate­r­i­al, a tra­di­tion that con­tin­ued through such lat­er car­toon block­busters as The Lit­tle Mer­maid and Dis­ney’s Snow Queen update, Frozen.

Steam­boat Willie was­n’t con­jured from thin air either. Its plot and title char­ac­ter were inspired by Buster Keaton’s Steam­boat Bill, released two months before Disney’s ani­mat­ed short went into pro­duc­tion.

A few caveats for those eager to take a crack at the Mouse…

Steam­boat Willie’s new­found pub­lic domain sta­tus doesn’t give you carte blanche to mess around with Mick­ey and Min­nie in all their many forms.

Stick to the music-lov­ing black-and-white trick­ster with rub­ber­hose arms, but­ton-trimmed short-shorts, and the dis­tinct­ly rodent-like tail that went by the way­side for Mickey’s appear­ance in 1941’s The Lit­tle Whirl­wind.

Nor can Steam­boat Willie-era Mick­ey become your new logo. Plop the char­ac­ter down in new nar­ra­tives, yes. Use him in a rec­og­niz­able way for pur­pos­es of adver­tis­ing unre­lat­ed prod­ucts, no.

Mis­lead view­ers into think­ing your mash up is Dis­ney-approved at your own risk. A Dis­ney spokesper­son told CNN:

We will, of course, con­tin­ue to pro­tect our rights in the more mod­ern ver­sions of Mick­ey Mouse and oth­er works that remain sub­ject to copy­right, and we will work to safe­guard against con­sumer con­fu­sion caused by unau­tho­rized uses of Mick­ey and our oth­er icon­ic char­ac­ters.

Don’t think they don’t mean it.

Author Robert Thomp­son, the found­ing direc­tor of Syra­cuse University’s Bleier Cen­ter for Tele­vi­sion and Pop­u­lar Cul­ture told The Guardian that even though “the orig­i­nal Mick­ey isn’t the one we all think of and have on our T‑shirts or pil­low­cas­es up in the attic some­place,” the com­pa­ny is hyper­vig­i­lant about pro­tect­ing its assets:

Sym­bol­i­cal­ly of course, copy­right is impor­tant to Dis­ney and it has been very care­ful about their copy­rights to the extent that laws have changed to pro­tect them. This is the only place I know that some obscure high school in the mid­dle of nowhere can put on The Lion King and the Dis­ney copy­right peo­ple show up.

Per­haps your best bet is to make sure your work skews toward satire or par­o­dy, a la the infa­mous hor­ror film Win­nie the Pooh: Blood and Hon­ey, which cap­i­tal­ized on author A.A. Milne’s 1926 book, Win­nie the Pooh’s entrance into the pub­lic domain, while traf­fick­ing in some famil­iar char­ac­ter design. Dis­ney ulti­mate­ly let it slide.

Fumi Games is already poised to take a sim­i­lar gam­ble with MOUSE, a blood-soaked, “grit­ty, jazz-fueled shoot­er” set to drop in 2025:

If you’re not yet ready to take the plunge, Mickey’s pals Plu­to and Don­ald Duck will join him in the pub­lic domain lat­er this decade, so don your think­ing caps and mark your cal­en­dars.

For a more in-depth look at the ways you can — and can­not — use Steam­boat Willie-era Mick­ey Mouse in your own work, Duke Uni­ver­si­ty’s Cen­ter for the Study of the Pub­lic Domain sup­plies a very thor­ough guide here.

Relat­ed Con­tent 

The Dis­ney Car­toon That Intro­duced Mick­ey Mouse & Ani­ma­tion with Sound (1928)

Mick­ey Mouse In Viet­nam: The Under­ground Anti-War Ani­ma­tion from 1968, Co-Cre­at­ed by Mil­ton Glaser

“Evil Mick­ey Mouse” Invades Japan in a 1934 Japan­ese Ani­me Pro­pa­gan­da Film

– Ayun Hal­l­i­day is the Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine and author of Cre­ative, Not Famous: The Small Pota­to Man­i­festo. Her vari­ety show, Necro­mancers of the Pub­lic Domain, returns to New York City on Feb­ru­ary 29, 2024. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

John Waters’ Hand-Made, Oddball Christmas Cards: 1964-Present

Ten years ago, we fea­tured John Waters’ hand­made Christ­mas cards, which he’s been mak­ing since he was a high-school stu­dent in 1964, long before William S. Bur­roughs deemed him the “Pope of Trash” (also the title of a ret­ro­spec­tive exhi­bi­tion at the Acad­e­my of Motion Pic­tures in Los Ange­les this past fall). It was Waters’ films that qual­i­fied him for that hon­or, of course, but his reg­u­lar sea­son’s greet­ings are no less a medi­um for his career-long artis­tic recla­ma­tion of bad taste. Christ­mas cards also have the advan­tage of being even more “under­ground” than his ear­ly fea­tures, direct­ed as they are to only a select group of recip­i­ents, large though Waters’ mail­ing list has grown in recent decades: he men­tioned to the New York Times that he sends out over 2,000 cards, and that was back in 2013.

“Christ­mas cards are your first duty and you must send one (with a per­son­al, hand­writ­ten mes­sage) to every sin­gle per­son you ever met, no mat­ter how briefly,” Waters wrote in a 1980s essay: “Give Me Anoth­er Present! Why I Love Christ­mas”. “Of course, you must make your own cards by hand. ‘I don’t have time,’ you may whine, but since the whole pur­pose of life is Christ­mas, you’d bet­ter make time, buster.”

As you can see at this gallery and this recent Twit­ter thread, Waters has made the time: the time to get his mugshot tak­en by the Bal­ti­more Police Depart­ment, to stuff dead cock­roach­es into tree orna­ments, to com­mis­sion a paint­ing of him­self as a pipe-smok­ing patri­arch (with a Divine-look­ing wife) pre­sid­ing over an askew nine­teen-fifties Christ­mas morn­ing, and, last year, to pro­duce blow-up dolls in his own like­ness.

In the decade since we last looked at them, Waters’ Christ­mas cards have also depict­ed him putting an eye out with a can­dy cane, feast­ing on Rudolph the Red-Nosed Rein­deer, and decked out in Christ­mas-thug regalia, com­plete with tat­toos promis­ing “chim­ney inva­sions” and “sea­son’s beat­ings.” This Christ­mas, Waters opt­ed for a more tech­ni­cal com­plex­i­ty, appear­ing as a dis­tressed tod­dler in the lap of a depart­ment-store San­ta (a fair­ly com­mon fifties tableau, I gath­er) who, as a sep­a­rate com­po­nent attached by some kind of spring, flails wild­ly when flicked. Fans who haven’t received one of their own can at least con­sole them­selves with the prospect of Waters’ next film, which will be his first in twen­ty years — and bring to the screen Waters’ own nov­el Liar­mouth, which more than a few of them prob­a­bly found in their stock­ings last Christ­mas. See a gallery of his Christ­mas cards here.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

John Waters Makes Hand­made Christ­mas Cards, Says the “Whole Pur­pose of Life is Christ­mas”

When Sal­vador Dalí Cre­at­ed Christ­mas Cards That Were Too Avant Garde for Hall­mark (1960)

Watch Ter­ry Gilliam’s Ani­mat­ed Short, The Christ­mas Card (1968)

Grow­ing Up John Waters: The Odd­ball Film­mak­er Cat­a­logues His Many For­ma­tive Rebel­lions (1993)

Andy Warhol’s Christ­mas Art

John Waters Designs a Wit­ty Poster for the New York Film Fes­ti­val

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.

Dorothea Tanning: The Artist Who Pushed the Boundaries of Surrealism

As Great Art Explained’s James Payne notes in the above pro­file of Sur­re­al­ist Dorothea Tan­ning, the emo­tion­al and psy­cho­log­i­cal com­plex­i­ty of her work invites inter­pre­ta­tion, par­tic­u­lar­ly when it comes to one of best known paint­ings, 1943’s Eine Kleine Nacht­musik.

Its doors, young girls (femme-enfants, if you pre­fer) and sun­flower were recur­rent themes for her.

What’s it mean?

Tan­ning main­tained the paint­ing is about “con­fronta­tion:”

Every­one believes he/she is his/her dra­ma. While they don’t always have giant sun­flow­ers (most aggres­sive of flow­ers) to con­tend with, there are always stair­ways, hall­ways, even very pri­vate the­aters where the suf­fo­ca­tions and the final­i­ties are being played out, the blood red car­pet or cru­el yel­lows, the attack­er, the delight­ed vic­tim….

Art his­to­ri­an Whit­ney Chad­wick, author of Women Artists and the Sur­re­al­ist Move­ment, dared to com­pare Eine Kleine Nacht­musik to Pierre Roy’s 1927 work Dan­ger on the Stairs, which Tan­ning may have encoun­tered dur­ing her life chang­ing vis­it to the Muse­um of Mod­ern Art’s ground break­ing 1936 exhib­it Fan­tas­tic Art, Dada, Sur­re­al­ism.

Both paint­ings unfold on nar­row, win­dow­less land­ings. Roy’s fea­tures a snake, that har­bin­ger of “Freudi­an sym­bol­ic con­tent”, slith­er­ing down a stair­case; Tanning’s two long-haired girls in Vic­to­ri­an desha­bille and a “torn and writhing sun­flower, an image strong­ly iden­ti­fied with Tanning’s Mid­west­ern ori­gins, close to nature and capa­ble of con­vey­ing impres­sions of both fecun­di­ty and men­ace.”

Tan­ning bri­dled at the temer­i­ty of Chadwick’s char­ac­ter­i­za­tion:

To com­pare my vision with the per­fect­ly pro­por­tioned and very pho­to­graph­ic depic­tion of a snake (ana­con­da) on a stair, neat­ly paint­ed, some­what in the man­ner of Magritte, is sim­ple-mind­ed. The scene, though infre­quent, is pos­si­ble in the nat­ur­al out­side world. Mine is not.

Could it be that the sun­flower is a trap set for experts unable to resist the pull of pub­licly inter­pret­ing a Sur­re­al­ist scene?

Tan­ning died in 2012 at the age of 101, but Eine Kleine Nacht­musik’s sun­flower con­tin­ues to exert its siren pull.

Art his­to­ri­an, Catri­ona McAra, author of A Sur­re­al­ist Stratig­ra­phy of Dorothea Tanning’s Chasm sees it as a sym­bol of “deflo­ration, men­stru­a­tion and erot­ic noc­tur­nal knowl­edge”, while art his­to­ri­an Selin Genc pegs it as “the unknown the child sens­es with­in her­self: a source of con­cern and fas­ci­na­tion.”

Far be it from us to haz­ard a guess in the pub­lic forum, though we’d be keen to get an ado­les­cent girl’s unof­fi­cial take on it, par­tic­u­lar­ly if she shares Tanning’s fas­ci­na­tion for Alice’s Adven­tures in Won­der­land and is as yet unac­quaint­ed with the Sur­re­al­ists, female or oth­er­wise.

Giv­en that many young teens under­stand gen­der to be a non-bina­ry propo­si­tion, our hypo­thet­i­cal inter­vie­wee might appre­ci­ate Tanning’s staunch rejec­tion of the label ‘woman artist’, insist­ing that “there is no such thing or per­son” and it is “just as much a con­tra­dic­tion in terms as ‘man artist’ or ‘ele­phant artist’.”

21st-cen­tu­ry artists of all ages, gen­ders and gen­res could ben­e­fit from her advice to “keep your eye on your inner world and keep away from ads, idiots and movie stars.”

That, friends, is how you make Eine Kleine Nacht­musik.

In a 2001 arti­cle in ART­news titled The Old­est Liv­ing Sur­re­al­ist Tells (Almost) All, Tan­ning, then 91 and “still alive in every way” spelled it out:

(Art) should make us feel good about life, or at least make us think about the big ques­tions, the things that peo­ple don’t want to ask them­selves any­more.”

Here’s some more of Dorothea Tanning’s work to get you start­ed on those ques­tions.

Relat­ed Con­tent 

The Fan­tas­tic Women Of Sur­re­al­ism: An Intro­duc­tion

An Intro­duc­tion to Sur­re­al­ism: The Big Aes­thet­ic Ideas Pre­sent­ed in Three Videos

Dis­cov­er Leono­ra Car­ring­ton, Britain’s Lost Sur­re­al­ist Painter

What Makes Sal­vador Dalí’s Icon­ic Sur­re­al­ist Paint­ing “The Per­sis­tence of Mem­o­ry” a Great Work of Art

– Ayun Hal­l­i­day is the Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine and author, most recent­ly, of Cre­ative, Not Famous: The Small Pota­to Man­i­festo and Cre­ative, Not Famous Activ­i­ty Book. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

DJ Cummerbund’s Astonishing Mashups Create Unexpected Collaborations Between Rock, Soul & Hip Hop Icons

“His­to­ry in the mak­ing,” Jay‑Z calls out a few bars into Beyoncé’s debut solo sin­gle “Crazy in Love.”

The sen­ti­ment may be even more ger­mane, when he does it in remix mas­ter DJ Cum­mer­bund’s irre­sistible mashup “Crazy Togeth­er,” above.

The recent assem­blage finds Queen Bey split­ting screen time with The Bea­t­les, as DJ Cum­mer­bund weaves “Crazy in Love” togeth­er with “Come Togeth­er.”

The video is as much fun as the seam­less audio, with a ham­my cameo from Ringo Starr, cour­tesy of the 1981 com­e­dy Cave­man, and Yoko Ono and James Brown doing some heavy lift­ing.

John Lennon’s take as Brown fires up his Sex Machine is price­less. It real­ly feels as if these unlike­ly col­lab­o­ra­tors were active, rather than pas­sive con­trib­u­tors.

Here’s a peek into how DJ Cum­mer­bund arranged the audio clips.

Asked in a 2020 inter­view with Dig­i­tal Jour­nal about the source of his inspi­ra­tion, he respond­ed:

I’m not sure if you can call it inspi­ra­tion exact­ly, but I have a neu­ro­log­i­cal con­di­tion that caus­es me to hear and feel melodies and fre­quen­cies where most can­not (in the wind, the soil, celes­tial bod­ies, etc.) This ulti­mate­ly caus­es me to con­stant­ly hear songs on top of oth­er songs to the point of extreme frus­tra­tion and the only way to sub­due that is to actu­al­ly cre­ate what I’m hear­ing in my head. It’s almost ther­a­peu­tic for me, and I was even told I could die if I don’t con­tin­ue to cre­ate my works. It’s def­i­nite­ly like a curse some­times but can also be a bless­ing as my music seems to bring a great deal of joy to mil­lions of peo­ple.

An under­sung ele­ment of these crowd pleas­ing remix­es is how skill­ful­ly DJ Cum­mer­bund ties things togeth­er by record­ing sup­ple­men­tal vocals and instru­men­tals.

Ozzy Osbourne fronts “Earth, Wind and Ozzys,” which mar­ries his 1980 solo hit “Crazy Train” with Earth Wind & Fire’s ever­green “Sep­tem­ber” so suc­cess­ful­ly, it’s a let down to remem­ber that a gor­geous, har­mo­nized “I’m going off the rails on a crazy train” is an invent­ed, not sam­pled dis­co cho­rus.

The com­bi­na­tions the DJ comes up with can’t help but force a fresh per­spec­tive on artists who would nev­er in a mil­lion years have shared a stage or fan­base.

Step into a no man’s land where the rapid fire punk brat­ti­ness of the Ramones can coex­ist with the Han­son broth­ers’ lemon fresh, Tul­sa whole­some­ness, and Cot­ton Eye Joe comes in out of nowhere.

When a title like “Me and Coo­lio Down by the School­yard” pops into your head, it arrives as a self-thrown gaunt­let. You can’t not see it through to fruition.

The late rapper’s “Fan­tas­tic Voy­age” infus­es Paul Simon’s gen­tly nos­tal­gic “Me And Julio Down By The School Yard” with some NSFW lyrics and a much hard­er out­look.

The lo-fi joys of dou­ble dutch and play­ground hoops from the orig­i­nal Julio video present a plau­si­ble  vision of a “place where (Coo­lio’s) kids can play out­side with­out livin’ in fear of a dri­ve-by.”

This being a DJ Cum­mer­bund pro­duc­tion, base­ball Hall of Famer, Mick­ey Man­tle and foot­ball coach John Mad­den, who were on hand for Julio, have to make room for his ever present muse, the late wrestling super­star Randy “Macho Man” Sav­age.

DJ Cum­mer­bund is will­ing to con­sid­er requests, par­tic­u­lar­ly if you do a bit of home­work to ensure that your cho­sen songs’ keys match up and their BPMs inhab­it the same realm.

See more of his mash ups, includ­ing Shaxi­c­u­la, the MTV Video Music Award-win­ning B‑52s/Britney Spears remix here.

In recent weeks, DJ Cum­mer­bund has been open­ing for the B‑52s dur­ing their res­i­den­cy at the Venet­ian.

Relat­ed Con­tent 

50 Songs from a Sin­gle Year, Mixed Togeth­er Into One 3‑Minute Song (1979–89)

The Peanuts Gang Per­forms Pink Floyd’s Clas­sic Rock Opera in the Mashup “Char­lie Brown vs. The Wall“

The His­to­ry of Rock Told in a Whirl­wind 15-Minute Video

– Ayun Hal­l­i­day is the Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine and author, most recent­ly, of Cre­ative, Not Famous: The Small Pota­to Man­i­festo and Cre­ative, Not Famous Activ­i­ty Book. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

The Complete “Everything is a Remix”: An Hour-Long Testament to the Brilliance & Beauty of Human Creativity

Let me quote myself: “From 2010 to 2012, film­mak­er Kir­by Fer­gu­son released Every­thing is a Remix, a four-part series that explored art and cre­ativ­i­ty, and par­tic­u­lar­ly how artists inevitably bor­row from one anoth­er, draw on past ideas and con­ven­tions, and then turn these mate­ri­als into some­thing beau­ti­ful and new. In the ini­tial series, Fer­gu­son focused on musi­cians, film­mak­ers, writ­ers and even video game mak­ers. Now, a lit­tle more than a decade lat­er, Fer­gu­son has resur­faced and released a fifth and final chap­ter in his series, with this episode focus­ing on a dif­fer­ent kind of artist: arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence.” Above, you can watch the com­plete edi­tion of “Every­thing is a Remix,” with all parts com­bined into a sin­gle, hour-long video. A tran­script of the entire pro­duc­tion can be found here. Watch. Pon­der. Cre­ate.

If you would like to sign up for Open Culture’s free email newslet­ter, please find it here. Or fol­low our posts on Threads, Face­book, BlueSky or Mastodon.

If you would like to sup­port the mis­sion of Open Cul­ture, con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion to our site. It’s hard to rely 100% on ads, and your con­tri­bu­tions will help us con­tin­ue pro­vid­ing the best free cul­tur­al and edu­ca­tion­al mate­ri­als to learn­ers every­where. You can con­tribute through Pay­Pal, Patre­on, and Ven­mo (@openculture). Thanks!

Relat­ed Con­tent 

The Long Game of Cre­ativ­i­ty: If You Haven’t Cre­at­ed a Mas­ter­piece at 30, You’re Not a Fail­ure

David Lynch Explains How Med­i­ta­tion Enhances Our Cre­ativ­i­ty

Mal­colm McLaren: The Quest for Authen­tic Cre­ativ­i­ty

Mihaly Czik­szent­mi­ha­lyi Explains Why the Source of Hap­pi­ness Lies in Cre­ativ­i­ty and Flow, Not Mon­ey


More in this category... »
Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.