The ghost of David Lynch haunts area artist

This is a weird one.

A cold wind skated blindly up Whyte Avenue when David Lynch’s disembodied voice began suddenly explaining how such winds are his favourite sound. My pocket recorder was playing tricks; I’d taped Lynch live down in Hollywood between his screening of Eraserhead and Sunset Blvd a couple months ago, yet here he was again, narrating.

Sometimes the world makes us feel strange by imposing an unexpected pattern into our heads, but this was a triple. Artist Zsolti Varsanyi and I had just emerged from Wunderbar where his art show lurks expectantly in the back like a giant spider. The lesser layer of coincidence is his multimedia visual narrative reminded me of the aggression and chaos and tension of Lynch’s paintings which, like Varsani’s, are not particularly ornamental or pretty, but certainly pull you in with plenty of questions. Hearing Lynch’s retirement house-cadence suddenly on the street was weird business, but not out of place with the art we’d just been looking at. We’ll come back to Lynch.

The paintings and sculptures and collages, most of them, detail the movements and adventures of someone Varsanyi calls Minster Thingly.

“It’s a character I found out about in Japan, under a bridge under a bridge, in an alley of an alley.” (Japan’s cities are stacked very much like this all over.) Varsanyi continued, “He seems to live within virtual reality and he’s trying to find his body. I was going to shoot a film about it, and the frustrations about not getting a grant for this film have turned it into a 25-piece art show.”

The character looks a bit like Rorschach from Watchmen, with the goggles of a Star Wars sandperson. We can’t see his face. Varsanyi explains his origins, “I was in Osaka on the street. I met a guy who had an iPhone that was doing something strange, and when I asked him for directions to a store, he asked me for help, and I said OK. So I followed him using his iPhone, and we came upon an apartment building. We took the elevator up and it was me, him and two other people with a computer. On the computer was this ‘Minster Thingly.’”

The series of events made such a profound impression on Varsanyi he told me he almost showed up for the interview in costume – a reproduction of what he saw that night. Scanning the net the next day for any information about the character led back solely to Zsolti’s since-purchased domain name and to places he stores his films online. One of which, BlindAwake, is black and white and features a backlit guy in a suit backwards-talking. Total Lynch (not even counting the dada story in Japan).

I don’t want to get too off topic, but the accidental and random injection of Lynch into the process of this story makes me feel more than a little funny. There’s obviously going to be a lot of artists into the surreal director, but the specific circumstances of my Sony player suddenly starting to play him before I’d seen Varsanyi’s film is exactly the kind of thing that makes dumb people swear there are ghosts. Having just read Douglas Coupland’s biography of Marshall McLuhan, I’ve been reminded about humans being pattern-recognition machines a couple times this week, and maybe let’s just leave it at that before I start thinking phone numbers are talking to me.

Regardless, Varsanyi is clearly haunted by his avatar/discovery/invention. Minster Thingly’s story is linear through the works, an adventure involving some sort of multi-stage hell, but I intentionally avoid getting an explanation, enjoying instead the sensory overload.

“I’m reflecting what I seem to see in him, his struggles to find his body. I’d love to tell you this is a superhero or an alter-ego for a Japanese boy sitting alone in his room, but it seemed to me, the way it was given to me, was as a joke at first. But one of the guys became really serious and just wanted to let it out as if he couldn’t live with the secret anymore.”

Mister Thingly now lives in Edmonton. Wunderbar is at 8120 101 Street, but if you told me you were already going there anyway, I swear I wouldn’t be even slightly surprised.