Exposition

Len Lye’s Kinetic Experiments: Sounds of Sculpture (2018)

Sarah Wall

About this exposition

When New Zealand artist Len Lye branched out into kinetic sculpture in 1958, his conceptualization was intimately connected to music. In the same way that some dance can enhance the music that accompanies it, Lye proposed that his kinetic sculpture was also naturally suited to this function as, like dance, its foundation is movement (Lye 1958: 7). Witnessing Lye’s steel sculptures in motion is a highly corporeal experience, with the sounds produced by their movements a key element in their sensory impact and appeal. To further strengthen the affective qualities of his sculpture, over a span of ten years Lye carried out numerous experiments incorporating various techniques and technology from both music and film, culminating in the idea to record and make these new sounds available to musicians and composers as source material for their compositions (Smythe 2006: 2). Focusing on a number of key events and a set of audio recordings held in the Len Lye Foundation Archive, this paper considers how, through such experiments, Lye was able to situate his motion composition outside the visual arts and within the field of music composition, to be viewed as “musical instruments rather than visual kinetic works of art” (Lye n.d.-a:8). When considered in relation to Lye’s achievements as a filmmaker and a sculptor, the audio recordings are easily dismissed as an interesting but isolated experiment. Driven by extensive primary research material, my aim here is to revisit and reappraise Lye’s experiments with sound, placing them within a critical framework informed by consideration of his working across the disciplines of experimental film, sculpture, and music.
typeresearch exposition
date12/04/2018
published08/05/2018
last modified08/05/2018
statuspublished
urlhttps://www.researchcatalogue.net/view/457239/457240
published inJournal of Sonic Studies
portal issue16.

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