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The Uncanny: From the films of David Lynch to Art and Architecture

Part 1 Dissertation 2008
Martin Miles
University of Nottingham, UK
A question I asked myself before beginning my architectural education was: “What would David Lynch do, if he were to create architecture?” David Lynch is an independent American film-maker who frequently baffles audience, critics with his surreal and disconnected image sequences. He also paints.

“It is because the uncanny - in all its non-specificity – lies at the very core of Lynch’s work” that I have taken the opportunity with this dissertation to explore the uncanny rooted by an investigation into the background of the film-maker. Both Sigmund Freud and Antony Vidler have written about the uncanny, the former in relation to literature, the latter in relation to architecture, they therefore form part of this study; and to help translate idea to three dimensional form a selection of contemporary artists who have expressed something uncanny in spatial form are also considered, Mike Nelson, Gregor Schneider and Rachel Whiteread.

I conclude with a discussion that links some of the key points of my exploration to architectural theory, with a suggestion for some categories that summarise the uncanny and that help point towards a philosophy of design; and finally, to close the narrative loop, with some speculation on what David Lynch might create in the real world of architecture.

Martin Miles

This interesting and engaging piece of work is motivated by the question ‘What would David Lynch do, if he were to create architecture?’. Recognising that the uncanny lies at the core of Lynch’s work, the dissertation draws upon theories from Freud and Vidler, who wrote about the uncanny, before then examining examples of how the uncanny has been spatialised and materialised by installation artists.

After identifying key themes that run through the films of Lynch, the architectural theory of Vidler and installation art, the dissertation concludes by discussing the uncanny in the content of architectural design. The dissertation is well written and it reflects a brave attempt to research the question without simply analyzing the films themselves.

Mr Bradley Starkey
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