Len Lye Talks About Art – Full Program – VIDEO


Len Lye Talks About Art – Full Programme

During the 1970s, the last decade of his life, Lye made about 30 ‘slide-tape programmes’, using a tape recorder synchronised with a slide projector. The average talk was about seven to ten minutes in length, with a change of slide each 10-20 seconds. His aim was to leave a record of his ideas about art and a resource for educators. He was not interested in making straight-forward commercial programmes – rather, he ranged widely and often playfully, encouraging the listener to share the pleasure he himself took in imagination, in lateral thinking, in free-wheeling creativity. His distinctive style was whimsical, tongue-in-cheek, colloquial, provocative, excited by ideas, and always passionate about art.

Lye’s talks reflected the informal mood – serious but ever solemn – in which he liked to present his ideas. In selecting seven of the talks and digitising them (for ease of use), we have tried to illustrate their overall style, range and flavour. The artist made no apologies for the idiosyncratic, rough-round-the-edges aspects of the talks because he regarded art as more than a matter of slick production values. In a similar spirit, we wanted to stay true to their original look and sound.

Though Lye was well aware of the limitations of using photos to illustrate works of art, particularly those that involved movement, he liked the way a frozen image on the screen could serve as a focus or catalyst for thinking about art. He used his programmes with audiences both young and old, and was forever changing the selection and order of slides in response to feedback and to his own constantly evolving ideas.

Made in the 1970s, the talks emphasise his particular interests at this stage of his career, such as his conception of the unconscious as the ‘Old Brain’ and his suggestion that there are deep similarities between the abstract forms that attract artists and the basic patterns of nature, as seen not only in our immediate environment but also through the microscope and the telescope. Drawing on recent scientific discoveries about DNA, he speculated that an intuitive insight into nature came with our ‘genetic inheritance’. Although the talks are ‘late Lye’ in terms of their ideas, he included examples of his art from all periods of his career. (To compare Lye’s ideas before the 1970s, see the essays collected in his book Figures of Motion.)

The first two talks focus on Lye’s ideas about kinetic sculpture and the making of it. Talks 3 to 5 focus on still images – paintings, drawings and ‘doodles’ – and describe some of the types of imagery that particularly interested him, which he interpreted as ‘an Old Brain approach to art’ (an approach shared by the Surrealists and by the Abstract Expressionists, two groups of artists with which Lye was associated). The sixth talk links this ‘Old Brain approach’ to the work of indigenous and ancient artists. The final talk expands his conception of the Old Brain still further to include ‘science and myth’, ‘art and the genes’, and his work in film-making and kinetic sculpture.

54:57                                                                                                                                                                                                                   5/11/23




Len Lye Talks About Art – Full Program

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