Len Lye: Free Radicals

  • ©1958/79, , Free Radicals


    Free Radicals

Artist(s) and People Involved:

    Filmmaker, Video Artist, or Animator(s):



Creation Year:



    16 mm film, b&w


    4 minutes

Art Event Overview:

    Granddaddy of New Zealand experimental media practice,  Len Lye (1901-1980) is known for his vivid and entrancing films – often made by directly scratching, painting and printing onto filmstock – and his kinetic sculptures that boom, flip and crash.  Free Radicals repurposes and reimagines film  through movement hand-scratched onto black film leader. Lightning-fashes, scribbles and stripes synchronise to drumming – a homage to Yoruba, god of thunder. The music was printed as an optical soundtrack, the waveforms of which then feed back into Lye’s animation. The film retains a sense of process, of Lye’s fascination with doodling and unconcious mark-making as a way to access deeply held, pre-rational understanding. Scratching the emulsion back to the clear film beneath, the drawn marks of the hand are clearly visible. Lye’s studied mix of accident and control sends scribbles rotating and stripes dancing across the frame. Forms pulse and twist in a kinesthetic meld of image and sound. Free Radicals suggests molecular interactions; the film’s black void could be interatomic or interstellar space.

Other Information:

    Courtesy the Len Lye Foundation, Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, New Plymouth.


All Works by the Filmmaker(s) in This Archive: