David Lynch’s tormented soul on display in Olten

David Lynch’s tormented soul on display in Olten
David Lynch’s tormented soul on display in Olten

Remo Buess, co-director of the new Olten Photography Museum. Thomas Kern/swissinfo.ch

The initiators of the Olten International Photo Festival inaugurate a photography museum with a new exhibition by American filmmaker David Lynch. A European first and a master stroke.

This content was published on April 08, 2021 – 4:40 PM

08 avril 2021 – 16:40

Thomas Kern

An elderly couple knocks on the locked door of the new museum in the old town of Olten, an industrial center between Basel and Zurich. But it’s almost noon and the museum is closed. The couple traveled on purpose from Winterthur. Remo Buess, the co-director of the place, lets them in anyway. He leads them inside, releasing this warning: the exhibition is rather difficult and demanding.

Indeed. Visiting the three floors and the many rooms of the new museum is like a ghost train journey. The title of the exhibition Infinite Deep says so. Lynch draws us into the infinite depth of the soul.

Anyone familiar with the melancholy, dismal and sometimes disturbing Lynch films – Elephant Man, Erasurehead, Blue Velvet, Mulholland Drive or the series Twin Peaks – discover in this exhibition how the director approached and developed his films through photography.

On closer inspection, many of the images leave a shiver, a feeling of almost physical discomfort. Take the series Distorted Nudes. (1999). The photos hang like a compact group in a wardrobe-like room. From a distance, the images look like honest erotic photos from the end of the 19th century. As you get closer, you discover bodies mutilated using Photoshop and limbs partially moved into impossible positions. Frankenstein and Francis Bacon send you their greetings.

David Lynch Portrait

David Lynch photographed by Josh Telles

Another series seems harmless at first glance. Nothing threatening in these images of snowmen posed in the gardens of the American suburbs. But the photos are gray and the magic of the white snow is gone. The smiling faces appear like grimaces, the rounded bodies like scarecrows. Everything seems frozen, only the gray and dirty snow is slowly melting.

The museum as an adventure

A former museum dedicated to nature, the building was originally a school. Its conversion into a photo museum was a success. The International Photo Festival Olten association (IPFOExternal link) is at the origin of the project. Remo Buess and Christoph Zehnder share responsibility for the new museum, with artistic director Marco GrobExternal link, a local photographer who has made a name for himself around the world as a celebrity portrait painter in New York. It is above all his contacts and his demand for quality and professionalism that have marked the association.

The new house was able to hire Nathalie Herschdorfer as curator of the current exhibition. The photography specialist with the international network is herself director of the Locle art museum, where she exhibitedExternal link the first photographic works of Stanley Kubrick, another master of cinema.


The two museum directors during the renovation works. ipfos

“After getting the agreement from the city, everything went very quickly. We don’t have to pay rent. But we devoted many hours of our free time to the renovation. We came across David Lynch’s photos thanks to a curator in Copenhagen. We jumped at the opportunity to be the first to show the exhibition in Europe, ”says Remo Buess in a lounge in the museum’s basement.

The museum is also an adventure, notes Remo Buess: “We are inexperienced and have never run a museum before. We were always a little behind on everything. Yet we knew this state of affairs. Our photo festival was also born in this way. ” With the successful experience of two festivals and the self-confidence of a Marco Grob, there is no reason to stop and no room for false modesty. Buess is satisfied: “The result is impressive.”

David Keith Lynch

was born January 20, 1946 in Missoula, Montana. The American artist has established himself as a director, film producer, screenwriter, actor, but also in the visual arts and music. Lynch gained worldwide notoriety with his noir and surreal films. Lynch’s nightmarish imagery and menacing sound design are his defining stylistic cues. Nightmares, strange worlds, metamorphoses, voyeurism and the unconscious are recurring themes in his cinematographic works.

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