Free Radicals: A Film of Dancing Signifiers "Every film [I made], I tried to interest myself in it by doing something not previously done in film technique" Len Lye. 1. Introduction Len Lye was known to be the least boring person ever lived on this earth. His art too never bored anyone, for sure. He opted for film as his material surface and he painted his movies on them as it was canvas. His film works blur the distinction between popular and high culture. Len Lye was well-known avant garde artist from New Zealand.
He had played his hands on many forms of art with equal rigor. In Free Radicals, he synthesizes all his artistic abilities and sensitivities in order to create a truly majestic work. This paper intends to read Lye’s doodling on film through an examination of the multimedia character of the Free radicals. Although, the paper attempts to read the Free Radicals from within, i.e. by examining its medium and content on its own, it would try to incorporate necessary theoretical insights as well. 2.
The Artistic Background of the Free Radicals Len Lye was always particular in drawing the source of his inspiration from music from various (often distant and little known) cultural backgrounds. In one of his first and best animated sound films, which is A Colour Box, Lye uses Caribbean jazz in a time when it was not much known to the outside the world. Peculiarly, in Lye’s animation films, shadows, streaks and colors are easily blended to an extraordinary music with quite perfection. Color could be seen bouncing back from the screen.
It is this very synchronization of colors and images with the music makes Lye’s animations more than appealing. Lye’s animated films were not only quite different from the movies produced in their respective times but also technologically advanced than other. This technological edge is one of the distinct features of Lye’s films. It was in 1926, Len Lye moved to England from New Zealand. He was attracted to the modernist movement in England and active in such circles having many friends among the stalwarts of arts and literature.
Lye was also attracted into various art forms such as surrealist stories and poems and moving sculpture. He was both eclectic and eccentric. The indigenous art of Maori people in the New Zealand had strong influence on Ley’s idea of art, especially his conception of visual art. Moreover, he was extremely fascinated by the oceanic cultures from around the world. It is necessary to remember that he was expelled from the racist New Zealand for living among the Maori people.
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