The Letter

September, 2015

Dear David Lynch,

I am a New York based artist and cultural organizer. Five years ago, I developed a performance, “The Search for Agent C,” attempting to bring your extraordinary character, Agent Cooper, back from darkness. The performance began as a lecture, but over three years transformed into a sort-of-séance. This “Search” reached a stopping point until recent news of the return of Twin Peaks.

As a teenager in the 90’s, Cooper filled the empty place in my psyche for a positive male role model.  It turns out, I somehow never saw the conclusion of the show until 2008 when the entire series was released on DVD and, recovering from a sad breakup with a fellow Twin Peaks lover, I binge-watched the show in one weekend, seeking solace in dear Coop. To my great shock and despair, I discovered, for the first time, Cooper’s unthinkable fate. He had been defiled years ago. How had I never known? I found myself inconsolable over what was now a ghost. 

A year later, I had a real-life parallel experience. My father had a complete mental breakdown. My brother and I, after a very distanced relationship with our father, had to step into a world of crisis and psychiatric hospitals, of panic and nightmares. Over the span of a year, I lost all space and lightness in my life.

Eventually I realized that within this mixture of paternal pain, there was one strand that could be teased out and controlled. That strand was my lingering, unresolved feelings about Cooper. I decided to use Cooper as a vehicle and a mask to explore my fraught experience, while  investigating the profound fracture that occurs when we attach to fictional characters. This was not merely an inquiry — it was a necessary action. I needed to breathe magic back into my life. To save Agent Cooper meant to be saved by him.

Channeling my father’s legacy as a motivational-speaking sales executive, I began the Cooper project with a PowerPoint lecture. I performed the lecture at an art space, and then I was invited to perform it again, then again, and again. Each time, I re-watched (and re-lived) the entirety of Twin Peaks in order to push the performance further. This immersion caused my real-life world and Cooper’s fictional one to start melding, leading to numerous magic-seeming occurrences as the performance began to shift and evolve. Something was happening. The project was no longer merely art. It was life.

Last October, I revealed my personal story behind the “Search for Agent C” for the first time in a live storytelling show. On this same day (the 6th), news of Twin Peaks’ return was publicly announced. Coincidence? I don’t know. On stage, it felt cosmic. 

Please, let it be.

I met Kyle MacLachlan three years ago at a wine tasting in my neighborhood. For a moment during our exchange, I saw the real Agent Cooper looking back at me. Reality had been intercepted by dream. Perhaps he sensed something too, as he autographed his photo to me with the words, “Cooper is alive.” I showed MacLachlan my photos of Agent Cooper appearing around New York City, explaining my project to bring Cooper back. He replied, “you should speak to David Lynch about that.”

Agent Cooper has provided me strength, wisdom and perspective to endure trials with no resolution. What we cannot manifest in life, we can manifest in art, then feed back into life. Here is my appeal: please help me realize the logical next step of my Cooper investigation. As Cooper communicated to me, in glimpses, through the veil of reality, I must now enter the fictional realm to meet him and complete the act that had been set in motion. To do so, I boldly ask for an appearance on Twin Peaks Season 3.

I don’t know what my next role will be in the life of Dale Cooper, but I hope it will involve a chance to speak with you. I will meet you anywhere.

With so much gratitude,

Michelle Levy

P.S. Accompanying this letter are a video message from me and 44 statements of support.

Colby Chamberlain Speaks

As director of EFA’s exhibition program, Michelle Levy has established a vital platform for the New York arts community. As an artist, she is part of a vanguard—including, among others, Martine Syms, Melanie Gilligan, and Guy Ben-Ner—that has transformed contemporary art’s knee-jerk rejection of television into a more searching and intelligent engagement with the medium’s tropes, conventions, and complexities. Like the original “Twin Peaks” series, Levy is a game changer.

Colby Chamberlain, senior editor, Triple Canopy

Tina Harris Speaks

I’ve known Michelle Levy for 21 years. At first I just thought it was my imagination, but after starting her Search for Agent Cooper, she became a bit more…nebulous. She spoke in riddles. Her clothes took on a different hue – colours she never wore before; like mustard yellow. She began to remind me of a new character in Twin Peaks. The only problem was that there were no new characters in Twin Peaks. The series was long gone. And then I thought that it might be the Search that was preparing her for some sort of new role in life. And then – a new season of Twin Peaks was announced. She is ready.

Tina Harris

Bean Gilsdorf Speaks

To Whom It May Concern:

I am writing this letter on behalf of Michelle Levy, to strongly recommend that she appear in an episode of Twin Peaks. The reasons for endorsing this appearance are strange, coincidental, and compelling–and as such are consistent with the show itself. On July 12, 2013, I received the following email from Cassandra Thornton [1]:

“This email is an introduction for two forces that must meet. Bean, Michelle has some questions for you about palms. Michelle is the director of the project space at Elizabeth Foundation and a dear dear friend of very magical portent. More than a director, she is a wild creative thing who is working on a mystical project that takes place on Sunday. I so hope that you two can have a conversation between now and then, or at least in the future, where you might realize how amazing you both are and how much magical and intellectual and human traits you have up for discussion.”

After such an introduction, who could refuse? I set a date to Skype with Michelle, and in advance of our talk she sent me the following image files: (I am a palmist, and Michelle asked me to analyze the images so that she might learn more about how Agent Cooper’s hands reflected aspects of his general personality, as well as his past and future). In the course of our subsequent conversation, we discussed her upcoming performance, which involved looking at the hands of audience members and searching for similar markings to those that are found on Agent Cooper’s hands. While we chatted, I noted that many of the main traits of Cooper’s hands could be found on Michelle’s own hands, and wondered about a mystical connection between them. Surely this was no coincidence, as the same traits would be necessary for both their chosen professions. [2]

Michelle and I have kept in touch since then, and I would suggest to you that casting her on the show, even in a small role, would have a profound impact on her practice as an artist, a very relevant effect on her ongoing inquiry into the nature of Agent Cooper’s life, and a potentially orphic result on the show itself. Let me make it plain that Michelle is no mere groupie, nor is she a knife-wielding stalker; she has spend countless hours intellectually absorbed in the issues of Twin Peaks and its main character, reflecting on some of David Lynch’s concerns with fiction and reality in her well-received performances. Bringing her onto the show would be like bringing two far-flung but related bodies into orbit–magical things could happen, and I believe they would.

Please feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns. On behalf of Michelle, I thank you for considering this proposal.

With all sincerity,
Bean Gilsdorf

artist, arts writer, palmist
Warsaw, Poland

[1] I bring to your attention the fact that our mutual acquaintance is named Cassandra, after the Greek Κασσάνδρα, bringer of prophesies–certainly a portentous beginning.
[2] In particular: Evident in images 2, 29, and 35, Cooper’s middle finger is significantly longer than his index or ring fingers, indicating an adherence to the law and self-governance by rules; the shape of his knuckles (images 21 and 23) show a keen, analytical mind that enjoys mulling over ideas, bouncing them around and testing their strength; images 20 and 15 show a slight disconnection of the pinkie from the rest of the hand, implying an energetic communicator; and images 2 and 8 (note the relative length of the thumb) suggest an abundance of willpower.

Nathaniel Sullivan Speaks

“Cooper is alive.” Of course Kyle Maclachlan would say such a thing. But this was over three years ago, at a wine tasting in Williamsburg, in a small shop that will filled with a mixture of few Twin Peaks fans, loyal boutique wine shop customers and passers-by who came in after recognizing the actor as he poured out glasses of his signature wine. Perhaps Michelle was the first person outside of a close circle of people who were privy to what is now happening: the resurrection of Agent Cooper. And who better than her to receive the message that there will be second act?

I have been privy to various iterations of Michelle’s project as it has developed over the past five years: I was in attendance at a lecture perfomance that was a mixture of auto-biography and a projection of Cooper’s spirit, I videotaped a seance where everyone felt more connected to him by event’s end and I have seen the photographs of him throughout the city. In short I am convinced that Michelle is connected to Cooper in ways that transcend fandom, or superficiality. She understands Agent Cooper is a part of all of us, and has connected many to that part of themselves that is magical, transformative and at times difficult to face.

This is not simply a testimonial in support of Michelle’s plea to be a part of the show somehow.  It is a statement to the fact that even the actor who is charged with bringing the character to life recognized: Michelle’s connection to Cooper and her deeper understanding of the character is rare and deserves an inclusion in the plans to re-boot Twin Peaks. Maclachlan even mentioned Michelle’s project in a subsequent interview, months later. The fact that the project remained with him for that long, from a brief conversation at a wine tasting is a ringing endorsement for her inclusion in the new episodes being shot.

Nathaniel Sullivan
artist, NYC

Sunita Prasad Speaks

Countless fans have been awaiting the return of Twin Peaks over the past two and a half decades, but Michelle Levy is the only one who has spent years actively Searching for Agent Cooper. And she has found him -in flashes. At moments when his turns of phrase seem to resonate most, such as Occupy Wall Street, or in places so strangely beautiful as the Gowanus Canal or Coney Island, she has glimpsed him. But only for a flickering moment. Just long enough to snap a photograph, and he’s gone.

I think a lot of us have wondered idly after an episode what we might say over a cup of coffee and a slice of pie with Agent Dale Cooper. But Michelle Levy is the person who actually has something urgent to say to him upon his return. Something she has been preparing to say through years of elegant and transporting performance art. Something only she has been able to sense all these years. Something that I suspect you will find very soon on a page in your writers’ room and recognize immediately as the words you’ve been searching for. You may wonder: whose words are these? Who is meant to deliver them to Cooper on Twin Peaks? Michelle Levy. That’s who.

-Sunita Prasad
artist and filmmaker

Jillian Steinhauer Speaks

Dear Mr. Lynch and Mr. MacLachlan,

Agent Cooper’s quest for Bob is endless, even if Bob lives inside him. Michelle Levy’s quest for Agent Cooper is similarly endless–she cannot rest until she comes face to face with him himself. She searches for all of us.

It is, on the surface, a strange coincidence that Michelle performed a story about her search for Agent Cooper on the day the return of Twin Peaks was announced. But in fact, it isn’t that strange, is it? Much stranger things have happened in Twin Peaks. And perhaps, as with those incidents, what it is is actually a symbol. And the only way to decipher it is to bring Michelle to the show.

This may all seem like a gimmick or ploy to get a crazed fan onto a highly beloved show. Understandable. But think hard about this. As you know and I know, as anyone who understands Twin Peaks knows, the owls are never what they seem.

Jillian Steinhauer