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Freud/Lynch: Behind the Curtain at Rio Cinema

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Time 09:00
Date 26/05/18
Price £30

Inviting all psychoanalysts, scholars and cinephiles for a 2-day conference exploring the cinema of David Lynch through a psychoanalytic lens.

Running form: Sat 26 - Sun 27 May.

The films of David Lynch are sometimes said to be unintelligible. They confront us with strange dreamscapes populated with bizarre characters, obscure symbols and an infuriating lack of narrative consistency. Yet despite their opacity, they hold us transfixed.

Lynch, who once told an interviewer “I love dream logic,” would surely agree with Sigmund Freud’s famous claim that “before the problem of the creative artist, psychoanalysis must lay down its arms.” But what else do the two agree on?

Freud/Lynch: Behind the Curtain takes as its point of departure that Lynch’s work is not so much unintelligible as ‘uncanny,’ revealing what Todd McGowan has termed “the bizarre nature of normality” – and the everydayness of what we take to be strange.

So come and reflect on these Lynchian enigmas. What do we mean by ‘Lynchian’? Beyond the apparent incoherence of his films, are there hidden logics at play? Are Lynch and Freud in alignment? And what light can psychoanalysis shed on the Lynchian uncanny?


Carol Owens - What’s so Lynchian About That? Defining a Cultural Moment with some Notes from the Couch.

Olga Cox Cameron - Dream Logic in Mulholland Drive.

Todd McGowan - Waiting for Agent Cooper: The Ends of Fantasy in Twin Peaks: The Return.

Catherine Spooner - Wrapped in Plastic: Lynch and Costume.

Jaice Sara Titus - Laughing it off? David Lynch and the Limits of Humour.

A panel discussion on Blue Velvet (Chair TBA)


Mary Wild - Lynch's Blurred Identity Trilogy.

Richard Martin - David Lynch Sprawls.

Chris Rodley - "Listen, Do You Want to Know a Secret?" Lynch Stays Silent.

Jamie Ruers - She wore Blue Velvet: How David Lynch has sensationalised Hysteria.

Allister MacTaggart - “It is an Illusion”: The Artful Life of David Lynch.

Panel Discussion on Twin Peaks: The Return. (Chair TBA)


Olga Cox Cameron
Dream Logic in Mulholland Drive
Why not puncture bafflement with playful speculation? Mulholland Drive proves surprisingly amenable to the dream logic explored by Freud in The Interpretation of Dreams, so let’s see where it takes us.

Allister MacTaggart
“It is an Illusion”: The Artful Life of David Lynch
David Lynch is primarily known as a filmmaker whose singular cinematic/televisual creations have held audiences both spellbound and perplexed over several decades. Yet he initially trained as a fine artist and has continued to work as such throughout his life, using a wide variety of media to express his unique artistic vision across various fields. In this paper I will suggest that Lynch’s work, in whatever medium, is best understood as that of a visual (and sonic) artist. As such, the perceived lacunae or unintelligibility in it may be understood or “experienced” in other ways and, further, that psychoanalysis may help to bring to light various aspects of his work which have hitherto been less explored than others.

Richard Martin
David Lynch Sprawls
Filled with sickly rooms, dark corridors and oppressive small towns, David Lynch's work often generates feelings of claustrophobia and confinement. But there's another way his worlds operate - they escape and exceed the usual boundaries, they spill out in unexpected directions at uneven speeds. Lynch's work can feel messy and chaotic. In short, it sprawls. And sprawl has a bad reputation: it's undisciplined and ungainly, it occupies time and space with ugly, disorganized forms. This talk examines the 18 hours and umpteen locations of Twin Peaks: The Return as Lynch's ultimate ode to sprawl.

Todd McGowan
Waiting for Agent Cooper: The Ends of Fantasy in Twin Peaks: The Return
This talk argues that the series Twin Peaks: The Return creates the expectation of Dale Cooper’s return as a fantasy figure capable of healing the wound of subjectivity itself only to show how he actually plays a crucial role in its perpetuation.

Carol Owens
What’s so Lynchian about that? Defining a cultural moment with some notes from “the couch”, or “Full of Freaks and Sad as Fucks”: On and off the couch with David Lynch
In the tenth episode of GirlBoss – the TV show “loosely based” on the online vintage shop Nasty Gal, aka the rags to riches story of Sophia Amoruso, there is a scene which quite simply could not have been written were it not for the constitutiveness of a certain moment which we can recognise as, properly speaking, “Lynchian”. Nasty Gal is accused of stealing business from other online vintage shops and there is some bad feeling about this, mostly via some hilarious threads on the online forum, mise en scene for us on the TV show as a “real” forum with the members seated around a table in a blacked-out space. Nasty Gal joins the forum and posts (says): “this message board should be called David Lynch’s Elephant Man because it’s full of freaks and sad as fuck”

Then she leaves the chat room.

One forum member gasps: “she called us freaks..”

And another adds: “Even worse, she completely missed the point of The Elephant Man.”

This little scene captures very well a number of things I want to talk about in this paper. First, the time has arrived in mainstream culture where a moment which we can call Lynchian is resonant. Second, the “Lynchian” thus constituted is a matrix of freaks and sad fucks. Third, it’s possible to miss the point of David Lynch. Drawing on some dreams and other unconscious formations and Lynchian assertions, I will try to sketch something of this cultural moment in order to answer the question: what’s so Lynchian about that.

Chris Rodley
"Listen, Do You Want to Know a Secret?": Lynch Stays Silent
Lynch’s unwillingness – or inability – to openly discuss the meaning of his work has enticed and frustrated audiences and critical establishments alike since the emergence of ‘Eraserhead’ in 1977. Who or what exactly has Laura Palmer now become in ‘Twin Peaks’? Why won’t he tells us what’s really going on in ‘Lost Highway’? Why won’t he confirm or deny our own complex theories on the workings of ‘Mulholland Drive’? Why does he invite us into his own dreamscapes and then leave us to figure our own way out, with just a liberal scattering of clues to help? Does he even have the answers himself, or is he too just enjoying the mysteries contained in the dream? This session is about the gulf that exists between Lynch’s work and Lynch’s mouth – the sinkhole that can open up between intention and effect. This is about the man who brings new power to the phrase ‘tight-lipped’.

Jamie Ruers
She wore Blue Velvet: How David Lynch has sensationalised Hysteria
The hysterical subject is an essential figure in Lynchian cinema. With an art historical lens, this paper will explore how hysteria has returned time and time again throughout Lynch's oeuvre by looking at a few important characters, from The Alphabet (1968), to Blue Velvet (1986), to Twin Peaks (1990-2017).

Catherine Spooner
Wrapped in Plastic: Lynch and Costume
Costume plays an important but under-recognised part in Lynch’s aesthetic. This talk will explore the distinctive contribution costume makes to Lynch’s oeuvre with a particular focus on Twin Peaks, showing how for Lynch, costume is more than just character and relates to his ongoing fascination with the curtain or veil. It will also playfully examine the influence Lynch’s work has had on fashion.

Jaice Sara Titus
Laughing it off? David Lynch and the Limits of Humour
Throughout Wild at Heart, David Lynch finds ways to repeat and expose feminine trauma, often bookedended with jokes and throwaway gags. The paper will trace how humour plays an important role in the recollection of trauma and what it means to be stuck in a joke-fantasy while trying to claim one’s place in the world.

Mary Wild
Lynch's Blurred Identity Trilogy
David Lynch is known for creating luxurious cinematic dreamscapes - infuriatingly beautiful mind puzzles in his signature surrealistic style. Three films in particular (Lost Highway, Mulholland Drive and Inland Empire) form his unofficial 'blurred identity trilogy', featuring characters who embark on bizarre inward journeys in search of lost selves. The central premise of this talk is that in each instalment of the trilogy, a psychogenic fugue follows the unconscious trauma of unrequited love. Psychoanalytic theory will be shown to illuminate Lynch's iconic dream-logic, which is disturbing and beguiling in equal measure.

Speakers' Biographies

Dr. Olga Cox Cameron has been a psychoanalyst in private practice and a university lecturer in psychoanalysis and literature in Dublin for the past 30 years. She is the founder of the Psychoanalytic Film Festival now embarked on its 10th year.

Allister Mactaggart, PhD, is a Lecturer in Media at Chesterfield College. He is the author of The Film Paintings of David Lynch: Challenging Film Theory (Intellect, 2010), in addition to which he has published on landscapes in Lynch’s work in relation to the legacy of the sublime in North American art, and on pop music and loss in Mulholland Drive. Allister has presented papers on Lynch’s work at conferences nationally and internationally, and was one of the guest speakers at the Conversations symposium held on conjunction with the David Lynch Naming exhibition at MIMA (Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art) in 2015.

Richard Martin is Curator of Public Programmes at Tate, and teaches at King’s College London. He is the author of the book The Architecture of David Lynch (Bloomsbury, 2014), and he organized the 2009 symposium Mapping the Lost Highway: New Perspectives on David Lynch held at Tate Modern. He completed his PhD at the London Consortium, and has also taught at Birkbeck, University of London, and Middlesex University.

Todd McGowan teaches theory and film at the University of Vermont. He is the author of The Impossible David Lynch, Only a Joke Can Save Us: A Theory of Comedy, Capitalism and Desire: The Psychic Cost of Free Markets, and other works.

Carol Owens is a psychoanalyst and clinical supervisor in private practice in Dublin. She has edited and authored a number of publications in the field of Lacanian psychoanalysis, most recently “Lacanian Psychoanalysis with Babies, Children, and Adolescents: Further Notes on the Child” (with Stephanie Farrelly Quinn, Karnac, 2017). She is currently working on an edited collection of essays studying Lacan’s seminars IV and V (with Nadezhda Almqvist, Karnac, 2018), and on a co-authored book on Ambivalence (with Stephanie Swales, Routledge, 2018). carolowensappi@gmail.com

Chris Rodley - "At the age of six I decided to be a painter. I graduated in Fine Art (Painting) in 1974 from Bristol Polytechnic, and then from Goldsmiths College in 1976 with a Post Graduate Art Teaching Degree. Having become bored with painting, horrified by teaching, but completely obsessed with the movies, I began programming independent cinemas in 1977, and was Co-Director of Cinema at the ICA in London from 1979 – 1984."

"Courtesy of Channel Four, I was able to begin making documentaries in 1983 and have been an independent filmmaker ever since. In the intervening 35 years I have produced and/or directed over 80 arts documentaries for television and contributed to over a dozen documentary series. These include award-winning films on Andy Warhol and Johnny Cash, as well as the series ‘The Genius of Photography’ and ‘This is Modern Art’. I first worked with David Lynch in 1993 while making a documentary about American independent cinema. In 1996 we began working on the book Lynch on Lynch, which was published in 1997 and has since been updated. I also worked extensively with the director David Cronenberg, making two documentaries about his work (one in 1986 and one in 1992) and well as editing the book Cronenberg on Cronenberg, based on years of recorded interviews. Unlike David Lynch, I don’t paint any more. He told me off about that."

Jamie Ruers is an Art Historian and a Researcher at the Freud Museum London. She has written and given talks on art history and psychoanalysis on subjects including Viennese Modernism and the French Surrealists.

Catherine Spooner is Professor of Literature and Culture at Lancaster University, where she specialises in Gothic literature, film, fashion and popular culture. She has published six books including Fashioning Gothic Bodies, Contemporary Gothic and Post-Millennial Gothic: Comedy, Romance and the Rise of Happy Gothic. She is the co-editor, with Jeffrey Weinstock, of Return to Twin Peaks: New Approaches to Materiality, Theory and Genre on Television.

Jaice Sara Titus is a PhD candidate at Brunel University London researching improvisational comedy and its relation to philosophy, critical theory and psychoanalysis. Her project particularly explores how the structure of desire and jouissance are embedded in the dimension of play, freedom and laughter.

Mary Wild is the creator of the PROJECTIONS lecture series (psychoanalysis for film interpretation), which has been running regularly at Freud Museum London since 2012. Her interests include cinematic representations of identity, femininity, the unconscious, love and mental illness.