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Advertising Age

October 3, 2016 View Original Article

John Malkovich Is David Lynch and So Much More in Squarespace's Online Art Exhibit

Last month, David Lynch fans were scratching their heads over teasers that the director had released through social media, including a cinemagraph of what appears to be Lynch himself, slowing sipping in a cigarette (what he once called his "worst vice"). "Dear Friends," he wrote on the Twitter post. "It'll just be like in the movies. Pretending to be someone else."

Turns out, Lynch wasn't playing himself. Rather, John Malkovich was embodying the director in a clue building up to today's debut PlayingLynch.com, an online experience hosted by Squarespace to promote Lynch's tribute album, "The Music of David Lynch," featuring tunes from his work covered by artists including Sky Ferreira, Duran Duran, Lykke Li and more, as well as a new series of films paying homage to the director.

In those vignettes, Malkovich goes on to play some of Lynch's iconic characters including "Twin Peaks" leading man Dale Cooper, who appears in a vignette on the site today, the series' The Log Lady, Frank Booth from "Blue Velvet," the Lady in the Radiator and Henry Spencer from "Eraserhead," Mystery Man from "Lost Highway" and Joseph Merrick, aka the Elephant Man.

Squarespace worked with director/photographer Sandro Miller, aka Sandro, known for his collaborations with Malkovich and the Steppenwolf Theatre Company ensemble members, to create the vignettes. In 2011, for example, his short film "Butterflies," starring Malkovich, was featured in Saatchi's 2011 New Directors Showcase.

The concept of "Playing Lynch," the site experience and social strategy came out of Austin agency Preacher, which had previously worked with Squarespace on its Grammys campaign that captured the rise of musician Leon Bridges.

The online event has a twofold purpose. Proceeds of the Lynch tribute album will go to support the David Lynch Foundation, the organization the director founded to bring promote transcendental meditation as a source for healing for at-risk populations, such as underprivileged children and veterans. It also showcases Squarespace's mission to make great web design accessible to the everyman by democratizing access to great art -- in this case, art, film and music inspired by David Lynch.

"We really want to showcase creatively what is possible on Squarespace," explained Squarespace Chief Creative Officer David Lee. The project, he said, has been two years in the making. "After we launched the Super Bowl campaign with Jeff Bridges, the Lynch Foundation approached us about doing something. It was all about raising awareness about the David Lynch Foundation, finding out how we could launch the album in a unique, innovative way."

"It's definitely not an advertising campaign," Mr. Lee added. "We look at this as an art exhibition online. We wanted to be part of this because we're all about talented people putting their ideas out into the world."

According to Preacher Co-Founder Chief Creative Officer , Rob Baird, "We had all these amazing artists, Sandro, John Malkovich, as well as music artists doing their reinterpretations of iconic songs. How do we take this 'collaborative meditation' and make that an experience? For us, we certainly wanted to create the best way to channel the David Lynch spirit, and let superfans get in on it."

In working with Preacher, "we wanted to have an agency who would focus on the social activation too," said Mr. Lee. Beyond helping to conceive the overall idea, Preacher also steered the rollout of social and teaser elements, including the building of themed Squarespace sites for iconic Lynch locations such as the RR Diner from "Twin Peaks" and The Slow Club from "Blue Velvet."

Outside of promoting the new Lynch album, Playing Lynch will also give audiences who donate to the Lynch Foundation access to Sandro's 20-minute director's cut of the vignettes, featuring Malkovich play the suite of Lynch roles. You can see a trailer of the film, cut by Utopic, here.

Mr. Lee said that the experience is also meant to be a "gift" to creatives. "That audience will always be our core, and we wanted to give something back to them."