How to Make a Ricky Board: A Creative Exercise from David Lynch
An avant-garde reminder that it’s all in a name.
By Maria Popova
It’s not uncommon for creators chiefly acclaimed in one medium to make lesser-known yet wonderful art in another: Patti Smith’s poetry, Sylvia Plath’s drawings, Marilyn Monroe’s unpublished verses, Richard Feynman’s sketches, René Magritte’s sheet music covers, J.R.R. Tolkien’s original drawings.
Though the leap between surrealist cinema and avant-garde art might not seem so great, there’s something especially striking about celebrated director David Lynch’s 1994 coffee table book Images — a collection of his private paintings, sketches, photographs, and short fiction that offered a never-before-revealed glimpse of the inner workings of his uncanny imagination. The most palpable unifying theme across the works were Lynch’s esoteric personal obsessions, from snowmen to suburban housewives, among which was his kooky concept of Ricky Board collages — dead flies neatly stacked in rows, a kind of morbid precursor of Ursus Wehrli’s The Art of Cleanup. Lynch writes:
The Ricky Board is my idea, right or wrong, of what the Japanese might do to organize controlled accidents in a formal environment.
From Do It: The Compendium (public library) — the fantastic collection of famous artists’ wide-ranging instructionals for art anyone can make, based on 20 years of legendary curator and provocateur Hans Ulrich Obrist’s project of the same title — comes a creative exercise from Lynch, who shows us how to make our own Ricky Board:
Do It: How To Make A Ricky Board (2012)
This board can be any size you want.
The proportions are dictated by four rows of five rickies.
Each ricky is, as nearly as possible, exactly the same as every other ricky.
The ricky can be an object or a flat image.
The thing about the rickies is you will see them change before your eyes because you will give each ricky a different name.
The names will be printed or written under each ricky. Twenty different names in all.
You will be amazed at the different personalities that emerge depending on the names you give.
Here is a poem:
Four rows of five
Your rickies come alive
Twenty is plenty
It isn’t tricky
Just name each ricky
Even though they’re all the same
The change comes from the name
Do It features contributions — from the kooky to the profound to the subversive to the sentimental — from beloved contemporary artists like Lawrence Weiner, Louise Bourgeois, Ai Weiwei, Douglas Coupland, and Sol LeWitt. See some of them here and complement with these activity books for grown-ups.
Published June 18, 2013