Monday Commentary
12:13 pm
Wed July 26, 2006

Playful and Macabre at the Blue Velvet Festival

One of Wilmington's hometown films turns 20 this year. David Lynch's cult classic Blue Velvet left a lingering aura of noir over the Port City, a relationship the Independent Art Company celebrates with the Blue Velvet Festival. WHQR's Megan Williams toured the installation and has more...

Wilmington, NC – LET ME START BY DIRECTING YOU TO PUT ON THAT PAIR OF HEADPHONES DRAPED OVER THE BLUE CHAIR IN THE CENTER OF THE GALLERY, AND LISTEN TO DENNIS HOPPER BREATH...

"It's two minutes and twenty seconds of a key scene in the film, and it is intense. And a lot of people are coming in and listening to it more than once."

DIXON STEDLER IS CURATOR OF THE SHOW, ALONG WITH DAN BRAWLEY. THIS DISEMBODIED SNUFFLING IS THE PERFECT INTRODUCTION TO THE EXHIBITION THEY'VE PUT TOGETHER

"It re-contextualizes part of the film, because you have audio pulled away from the imagery, and in a sense that audio is so powerful. It has a weight, and a presence."

BRAWLEY AND STEDLER ARE OBVIOUSLY GLEEFUL ABOUT WHAT THEIR OPEN CALL TO ARTISTS AND DAVID LYNCH FANS HAS NETTED - A ROOM FULL OF MOODY, QUIRKY, SOMETIMES INEXPLICABLE ART.

"As you look around, you can see, each artist takes the film to different levels in terms of how literal they are. Do they take somebody from the film and make art about them, or do they do something very subtle that sort of is suggestive?"

THIS IS NOT, AS BRAWLEY PUTS IT, ART TO HANG ON YOUR BEACH HOUSE WALL. IN FACT, THE PIECES AREN'T EVEN OBVIOUSLY FOR SALE. AND WHILE MANY OF THE WORKS ARE FROM ESTABLISHED LOCAL ARTISTS, SOME AREN'T FROM ARTISTS AT ALL, JUST FANS, GIVEN LICENSE TO APPROACH THE FILM IN A NEW WAY.

"There were a couple of people who did pieces for this show and you could tell... they were excited, man, they stayed up all night and they called us the day it was due and said, 'hey, can I have one more day?' And the next day, they called 'can I have just one more day?' And then the next day they called, 'can I have just one more hour?'"

LIKE BLUE VELVET, MANY OF THESE PIECES TOY WITH THE BOUNDARY BETWEEN THE MUNDANE AND THE GROTESQUE: BIRDS CONSTRUCTED FROM GLOSSY JELLYBEAN MOSAICS AND A WHITE-PAINTED SHOVEL STAINED OCHRE ON THE BLADE. IT'S THE MOST ACCESSIBLE OF CONCEPTUAL ART, SINCE YOU CAN RENT THE CONCEPT ON DVD. LYNCH'S FILM PROVIDES A TRANSLATION FOR PIECES THAT WOULD BE EVOCATIVE IN ANY CONTEXT, LIKE EAR - A HUNK OF GRASS BEARING A COCKROACH CARCASS, A PLASTIC LID SMASHED IN THE SHAPE OF AN EAR, AND, STEDLER DISCOVERED, A LOT OF UNINVITED GUESTS...

"This morning I came in and it's covered with ants. Still is, as you can see, they're crawling around all over the place. Just like in the film. It's perfect"
"Is this actual sod?"
"Yeah, I sweet-talked a guy who was installing it the other day to give me a piece. Told him it was for art. And he said, 'oh, if it's for art, you can have it.'"

IF THE LINES BETWEEN ART AND LUCK AND THEFT SEEM A LITTLE BLURRY IN THIS SHOW, THAT'S EXACTLY WHAT BRAWLEY INTENDED. ASKING ARTISTS TO CREATE INTENTIONALLY DERIVATIVE WORKS TOUCHES ON A CENTRAL QUESTION OF THE DIGITAL AGE.

"Technology has brought us to the place where sampling somebody else's work is an everyday practice. And so, David Lynch doesn't own any of these ideas, and neither do we as artists, but we're all playing with them, and hopefully in some way, coming up with a new idea in the end.

IT SEEMS ONLY FAIR. BLUE VELVET ORIGINALLY BORROWED MUCH OF ITS MACABRE MOOD FROM WILMINGTON'S EVOCATIVE LOCATIONS. WITH THIS SHOW, LOCAL ARTISTS ARE BRINGING SOME OF THAT ESSENCE BACK HOME.

MEGAN WILLIAMS, WHQR NEWS