Michelle Levy is an accomplished artist, curator, arts administrator. In this last capacity she has dedicated a great deal of her seemingly limitless energy and talent to making space in the art world for unique voices, complex projects, and compelling conversations amongst artists. It is our great pleasure to, in our own small way, return the favor. Her Ghost Project is a kind of ghost story that will not improve from further introduction.
The Ghost is the Impossible One
In October 2010, I embarked on a trans-media performance to contact a lost character from the TV show Twin Peaks. For Printeresting’s GHOST I offer an account of this strange journey as it continues to unfold five years later.
“I have no idea where this will lead us, but I have a definite feeling it will be a place both wonderful and strange.”
-Dale Cooper, 1991
PART ONE: Describing the nature of this haunting
The year was 2008*. I was alone in my apartment, dumbfounded, heartbroken, staring at the TV screen. Sixteen years since Twin Peaks had gone off the air, a chilling specter had revealed itself to me — namely, the show’s main character Agent Cooper — or rather, the demon he had now been possessed by.
The ghost is Agent Cooper’s trapped spirit.
Who is Agent Cooper? you ask? Simply: he is a lens to the extraordinary within the mundane. A modern day Buddha.
The ghost is the impossible one we aspire to.
Why had I not remembered Cooper’s fate? Likely because I had not, all those years ago, made it to the end of the story — a revelation that added fire to the irreconcilable pain, regret and loss I felt. Why did I feel so much over something not real?
The ghost is lost time, stolen memory. It is that which is not real, yet we will it to be so.
For years, I conducted a performance throughout New York City called “The Search for Agent C,” aimed at contacting Cooper’s trapped soul. The performance enabled me to discover different sorts of possibility – embracing defeat by circumventing it.
The ghost is futility and its gifts of abandon.
Had I fully believed it plausible to bring Cooper back, I may have been too terrified to proceed. Yet the performance spoke through me rather than from me, illuminating each step via it’s own logic.
It is an indescribable charge conducted through us.
Eventually, the “Search” brought me to a peaceful conclusion… I finally prepared to divulge the poignant private events connected to the “Search” in a storytelling show in 2014. On the day of the show, the official announcement of Twin Peaks’ return was made. I had no idea this was coming. For Cooper, there are no coincidences. We two, therefore, remained entangled.
It is the subject that refuses to release you.
Now, just as Cooper did decades ago, I enter into uncertain terrain to rescue what I love.
It is the idyllic object, vulnerable to perversion.
It is the darkness lying dormant within us…
*2008 marked the US release of Twin Peaks complete series on DVD.
PART TWO: Interception of the Dream
Dear David Lynch,
I hope you are having a marvelous autumn. Last month, as you began production on the new Twin Peaks, I crafted an appeal to you. After my years of delivering Agent Cooper into the real world, the discovery that he would return to life on the screen compelled me to complete the circle, and to boldly ask if I may appear on the show.
My appeal consists of a letter revealing the personal story that led me here, and the following video plea:
In addition, there are over forty messages from respected peers. Their generous support enables me to continue down this strange, uneasy path.
You must know, Mr. Lynch, it is not easy to reach you. It is close to impossible, in fact, if one is a polite person. My gentle instincts have veered me away from many well-meant suggestions that could work to get your attention such as:
Bombard his every channel of social media every day until you hear from him!
Go to LA and don’t leave until you come face-to-face with David Lynch!
While I wish to convey myself as respectful peer rather than obsessed fanatic, I accept, especially given the nature of my request, I may not have control over this. Maybe I am like one of those ghosts that don’t know they are ghosts — deluded in believing I am something I am not — floating around misplaced. I hope not. The following messages from supporters may legitimize my case in a way that I cannot:
Dear Mr. Lynch,
Right from the start, Michelle spun the everyday into magic.
She must have been three and enamored with fairy tales when she began to dig holes in the yard to find her way to England where she could be a princess.
When Cabbage Patch dolls became the rage, Michelle, who by then was about six, created one out of fabric remnants and ribbons, quite a lovely doll which I have to this day. She created other toys and accessories that she was not able or allowed to acquire.
When she was in her second grade class, all the other parents and I were amazed to see a painting displayed high above the chalkboard by someone whom we thought must have been a visiting artist. It was Michelle’s
. . . .
(excerpted from from my mom)
Michelle is part of a vanguard—including, among others, Martine Syms, Melanie Gilligan, and Guy Ben-Ner—that has transformed contemporary art’s knee-jerk rejection of television into a more searching and intelligent engagement with the medium’s tropes, conventions, and complexities. Like the original “Twin Peaks” series, Levy is a game changer.
(excerpted from a respected art writer/editor)
(from a virtuoso of the NYC underground)
After organizing the the very touching support statements (please look through them all), I optimistically began publicizing my campaign. I sent my first message to Kyle MacLachlan.* My dream goal was to get my final statement of support from him. Wouldn’t that be a kicker? I had to at least try. Alas, I wish I had taken a page from your book, Mr. Lynch, and meditated first! But the timing of everything felt so urgent, I acted quickly and fear I did it all wrong…
After some silence on Kyle’s end, then another attempt, the horror dawned on me that I had misspelled his last name (Machlachlan)! Why??? Even if he HAD received it, would he take me seriously? I felt such a fool, self-defeated by my own carelessness.
“All the best artists I know are horrible spellers. Spelling does not make genius. I am CERTAIN he will not hold this against you. CERTain.” (advice from T)
“It is a complete and solid project in and of itself… Hang in there, I think something surprising will happen either way.” (advice from K)
After weekly rides of frustrating dead-ends and reassurance from people I trust, I came to clearly see how the strategy for gaining access to upper-level entertainment industry is very different than that of developing a rich and wild art project.
My heart told me to take a step back: to spread the appeal following the logic used in prior iterations of this performance: toss a seed and let it find its own planting ground. Even with the urgency of time, forcing this is not an option.
Some say I am undermining myself. I may be. But here is what I know: the appeal, filled with collective belief in a possibility, lives out there in the interweb. It may have already reached you. It may reach you in a month, a year, or after Twin Peaks Season 3 has aired. I will wait. I will do my best to be patient and hold my head up. I am not going to lie, it will continue to be an uncomfortable, lonely task. Each time the stat counter goes up, I wonder with excitement – could that be him?
All I ask, Mr. Lynch, is that whenever that time comes, please give me a sign.
*Kyle MacLachlan is the actor who played Agent Cooper in the original Twin Peaks Series. He is the one confirmed cast member for the upcoming Season 3. I met him in 2012 at a tasting for his wine label, where he gave me his card and told me to keep him posted on my project.
Part Three: Alternatives: Enlisting the Divine Circle
Journal Entry: October 7, 2015.
I have been sapped of all my energy. I’m now several weeks into the appeal and, after much initial excitement and momentum, everything feels stalled, stagnant. Over the past two days, I have reached out, one at-a-time, to a handful of caring, mystical friends on both East and West Coasts: my Divine Circle. I asked them each to help restore the currents, and (if they are comfortable to do so) to share with me any small action they take.
* * * * *
“I am going to dedicate the next 4-5 hours of painting to channeling your exceptional spirit of work ethic and perfection and to Lynch’s access to the darker and lighter parts of the psyche. I’ll send you an image tonight.”
* * * * *
“I’m going to gussy up a candle and light it.”
* * * * *
“Tarot reading for Michelle:
I used a simple reading that uses 3 cards. I’m attaching here what I asked and what I got from the tarot deck.”
(with consultation from the Tarot of Eli Site)
What Came Before?
2 of Wands -Dominion-
Two strong elements over fire signal great success from working in partnership with a celestial or spiritual force. Influence, dominion, boldness, courage, resolution, generosity, sensitivity, ambition. Focused will and fiery motion create a balance that destroys and rebuilds the issue at hand. Transformation. When this card shows up the will of Spirit is involved.
What Comes After?
5 of Swords -Defeat-
The intellect has been weakened by sentiment and become overly passive. It is the card of one so impressed by their own suffering and defeat, they can not move forward. However, to accept defeat and build from the experience a success — is the way of growth.
What exits Within?
5 of Disks -Worry-
The inverted pentagram represents matter’s conquest over spirit. This is a sign to cleave away at mental-emotional baggage that weighs us down such as fear of rejection, and/or fear of loss. To the more observant mind, being alive is about the journey, and not the goal. This is about the gaining of experience through the process of self-awareness and not the physical goals of career, winning etc. This card tells us to discard our worry, Spirit knows what it is doing.
* * * * *
“Here is the result of my new moon ritual”