Jenny Hector is doing light and design for the Decibel program “Twin Peaks Was 30”, a celebration of the 30th anniversary of David Lynch’s Twin Peaks film Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992),  in memory of both Angelo Badalamenti and Julee Cruise, who passed away 30 years later. Decibel transform the Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts (PICA) into a progressive concert environment teeming with red velvet and darkened portals in thier program, with special guest vocalist Rachael Dease, and featuring new works by Dease, Rebecca Erin, Matt Warren and James Rushford alongside  reworkings of the original film score of Angelo Badalamenti.  The audience travel through a re-oriented PICA concert experience where live music performance is presented in a radical variety of way.


In this interview, Decibel artistic director Cat Hope chats to Jenny about her experience of preparatoin for ‘Twin Peaks Was 30’.


CH: Whilst I am a die hard David Lynch fan, the Twin Peaks TV series and Fire Walks with Me film didn’t have the same impact on me as the music from them did – I connected much more to that that than the actual series and film and  their embedded meanings etc. The music carries the surreal qualities of the film, almost better than the film itself. Badalamenti’s full synth sounds, Lynch’s lyrics,  Julee Cruise’s dreamy vocal stylings, and their band Thought Gang were huge influences on my own music. Do you have a connection to Twin Peaks in any way?


David Lynch, Julee Cruise and Angelo Badalamenti back in the day. Photograph: Michel Delsol/Getty.


JH: Twin Peaks came out when I was studying at VICA (Victorian College of the Arts) and we would gather at a friends place for dinner and excitedly watch each episode as it came out. It reminds me of them, a time for patience and also the possibility that art didn’t need to make cognitive sense. When I think of Twin Peaks today I hear sounds (double bass for Cheryl Ann walking and twisting cheery stalks?), the long eerie sound for Laura’s death, but mostly visceral feelings that I had and have no names for. 


CH: I thought the surreal ‘alternative narrative’ concepts presented in the film were an opportunity to do the same thing to a new music concert. I think new music concert presentations could do with a shake up!  The aim with this project was always to take  the standard presentation and turn it upside down, around, inside out, backwards.  Look through, in, up, down and out. PICA’s own reorientation as a result of the works happening out the front of the building helped feed into that idea. I’ve enjoyed working with you on how that ‘reorientation’ can proceed in both curatorial and the design of the space. Our approach to this has been to take different elements from the scenes in ‘Fire Walks with Me’ and play with them throughout the different spaces inside PICA. We started this process by watching the film together, and sharing stills. How would you describe what happened next?


JH: It was a harvesting of motif’s, (cherry’s, clocks, colours, textures, & Venus Di Milo’s for example) that were then multiplied, distilled or ascribed a new function. Combining this with each piece of music/composition the design is further honed by availability, budget, time and even space or number of musicians and their placement. These need to compliment and inform the spatial design and how this might be witnessed/experienced by the audience – the way I see it, we are trying to give a fully formed experience that sometimes we would arrive at from backwards as well.  So backwards and forards through ‘Audience-Practicalities-Motifs-Twin Peaks’.


CH: What are some of the key design elements you think have been important to creating the Twin Peaks “scenario” you mention here? I know we settled on some materials early on – such as the clear plastic, the red velvet curtains, a bar – what has it been like to work with these ideas. 


Writing on a windscreen


JH: Probably the main idea that stuck with me was your determination to unbalance the audience by redirecting their pathways whilst disguising and revealing spaces. Then the motifs kind of found their places within that. Working in amongst elements  that remind me of my formative years has also been a fun revisiting!(except for !BOB!)


CH: Many design elements have come from the commissioned works of music. Rebecca Erin’s hanging installation/score, James Rushford’s work designed to be performed on the PICA balcony where it was premiered in 2012,  and the inclusion of Rachael Dease as a vocalist and composer, for example. How do you think they have influenced the design?


JH: I listened to each of the pieces in preparation, but actually the space the musicians require is a driver for me. Thinking about where the audience hears/sees/experiences each peice are very key to the design. Then how this experience or ‘feel’ can be amplified by the design elements comes from that.


CH: Decibel are very familiar with the PICA building after a series of concerts in  the main space, the west end gallery and performance space over the years. But this is your first interaction with the building. What are the challenges planning remotely, being based in Melbourne, without ever having visited the venue?


JH: Well, I am making best guesses based on the building plans I have, the Decibel knowledge you have shared and the amazing support and knowledge of the PICA staff. It is challenging and I am hoping to find the balance between big gestures with large impact, through to smaller details. I have decided to make many of the decisions once I am in the space – how to work with the balcony for example, and have kept the idea of the design as something that is modular and quick so it can respond to the room once I better understand the space and the audience’s interaction with it. Fingers crossed!


CH: You have worked with a Twin Peaks theme before, right? Can you tell us about that? 


JH: Yes –  this was for Dark Mofo in 2018 and  was a design by Perth native Bruce McKinvin, which Bosco Shaw and I did the lighting for. It was a beautiful, literal (if one can describe Twin Peaks in such a way) homage to the Bang Bang Bar and the red room in the film.


CH:  We also have a bar – but pretty abstracted from the original – though it does serve drinks!  I think it is important to recognise our influences, and celebrate them – this is one  of the driving elements for making ‘Twin Peaks Was 30’. What are some of your major influences that you know play out in your own work as a lighting designer?


JH: Form & Function, even when its decoration, are big factors for me. I like to be reserved in my designs, slow and low – I worry that lighting sometimes distracts rather than enhances. Happy to go there, but not for the sake of it. I think a lot about the colours in Twin Peaks- the steel blue of Laura’s cheeks and the sky, the colour of the forest against the tungsten lit cabin window….the Darkness… where is it safer to be?


Julee Cruise singing in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with me.


CH: A lot of Twin Peaks TV series vehemently dislike the ‘Fire Walks with Me’ film.  But many critics say it is the key to the entire Twin Peaks concept. In recognising the connection, the concert features music by Angelo Badalamenti and David Lynch that is from the series as well as the film. Where do you stand on this dilemma?


JH: I hadn’t thought about it! David Lynch is a pretty out there dude. I love that it always felt like he was able to respond to both the series and film in the process of making them. It feels like both wandering and responding, just in different ways.


You too can wander and respond! Twin Peaks was 30 opens at the Perth Institute of Contemporary Art (PICA) in Perth, Western Australia on Thursday 09 May at 7:00pm. There are also shows on Friday 10 May, 7:00pm and Saturday 11 May, 7:00pm. Tickes $35-45 General/Concession (includes Twin Peaks themed drink) available from here.


Lead photo features composer Rebecca Erin and Decibel member Stuart James, by Edify Media.