During the preparation phase of David Lynch’s 2015 exhibition Between Two Worlds, Brisbane’s Gallery of Modern Art commissioned the duo HEXA (artist/composer Lawrence English and Jamie Stewart of Xiu Xiu) to create an auditory response to Lynch’s Factory Photographs series. Interested in how sound and music act on the mind and body, English and Stewart wanted to create sound that would effectively put viewers of Lynch’s factory photographs inside their specific settings.
These recordings, with an atonal, droning, and industrial template, much in the spirit of Lynch’s most experimental films, are now being made available as an album. Titled Factory Photographs, the sounds conjure the post-industrial atmosphere of photographs Lynch took during location scouting for The Elephant Man and the unrealized film Ronnie Rocket. As listeners will hear on tracks like “Sledge,” which premieres today on The Creators Project (below), HEXA’s work is incredibly evocative but also deeply unsettling.
“I suggested addressing these images sonically,” Lawrence tells The Creators Project. “To me they symbolize an important rupture in the 20th century, a signal for the end of the ideals of an industrial economy that has fueled the West through the 20th century and a pointed reminder that nothing is ever constant.”
“Everything shines and then fades and then crumbles,” he adds. “Lynch’s Factory Photographs capture this fleeting final exhalation so very poignantly.”
It should be noted that Stewart previously took on Lynch material when he recorded a full album of Twin Peaks songs as Xiu Xiu, commissioned by Australia’s Gallery of Modern Art. As English explains, he and Stewart had been working on HEXA pieces prior to the commission—sounds that again played with the duality of cerebral engagement with music and the “physical abrasion that takes places under certain conditions.” These conversations fed organically into their sonic approach to Lynch’s images. “To me, they are loaded with a latent sense of sound,” Lawrence says. “Not just at the moment they were taken, but the latent sound of their former selves. Jamie and I became interested in trying to imagine what a body might sense and what someone might listen to should they find themselves in these settings.”
“A great deal of the sound materials is drawn from concréte materials we have collected,” he adds. “As well as that we focused certain aesthetic approaches that captured that elegant erosion that permeates Lynch’s photographs. It was fairly easy to find some inspiration from the images. They almost literally sound right off the photo.”
Listen to the premiere of "Sludge" below: