David Lynch’s avant-garde aesthetic is true to his practice—be it film, painting, photography, design, or music. His recent exhibition Small Stories at the Maison Européenne de la Photographie, Paris, comprises photographs that indulge an instinctual exploration into our subconscious, free from worldly conditioning and typical of Lynch’s preoccupation with the human psyche. Lynch presents unassuming scenes that are strangely abstracted, compelling the viewer to delve into the frame and compose a subjective purpose. The entry text explains the show’s intent: “Still images can contain stories. Small stories take place during a very short period of time. However, the mind and emotions can become engaged by looking at a still image, and small stories can grow into huge stories. It depends, of course, on the viewer.”
The artist is present in each photograph—in fetishistic objects, Claymation-like forms, phantomastical compositions, recurring motifs of seeds with the potentiality of life, enlarged and often deconstructed heads overfilled with scattered thoughts. Of the forty or so photographs produced especially for the show, there are a series of heads (titled Head 1, 2, 3…), shop-window displays (titled Window with Plant/Flower/Head, etc.), and room interiors (titled Interiors 1, 2, 3…). Beside these, other Lynchian dreamscapes appear, inspired by personal memories: a photograph of seven lit candles on a dusky beach, William Burroughs standing with a sheep, and a boy with a rocking horse and toy plane.
Displayed in three rooms on the top floor of the museum, the images are in Lynch’s favored grainy black-and-white style, for he admittedly enjoys the luring depth of black, rather than starkly revealed color. Thematically, they remain much in the gray spectrum—murky, mysterious, and surreal, with forms overlapping and morphing, remaining quintessentially obscure. In an age when we are bombarded with images loaded with ideas intended to reveal a “truth,” Lynch’s photographs entice us to imagine beyond the limitations of known form. The exhibition reveals a dystopian world vision, but one that is possibly reflected in our own minds. The works’ eccentricities provide neither rules of interpretation nor any specific underlying theme. Yet in doing so, Lynch successfully employs dreams to question the nature of our reality.
Small Stories is on view at the Maison Européenne de la Photographie in Paris through March 16, 2014.
Kanika Anand is a curator and writer based between Paris and New Delhi.
 Paul Young, “Talking Art: Wild at Art,” in Buzz Inc. (1993).