After several years of toil we launched the new collection of research concerning Len Lye this past Thursday at Scorpio books in Christchurch. It was a fitting conclusion to a year of activity for us in Lye’s hometown. Two exhibitions took place there through the latter half of 2018, Stopped Short by Wonder at Christchurch Art Gallery and Pretty Good for the 21st Century at the School of Fine Arts and Canterbury University.
Partnering with Canterbury University Press on this book recognised more than the city having a biographical connection to Lye but the strong connections between the University’s School of Engineering and the Len Lye Foundation.
I’m presently working on several of next year’s exhibitions, the big one being Free Radicals: Cinema on the Wrong Side of the Tracks (opening in April 2018). Looking at Len Lye’s experimental films as a gateway to the wider world of experimental cinema, I grabbed the title from a quote by Pip Chodorov in his Free Radicals: A History of Experimental Film documentary.
As I’m slowly scratching away at details for this exhibition I was delighted to get a copy of the EXPRMNTL film directed by Brecht Debackere. EXPRMNTL is a documentary about the Knokke Experimental Film Festival held on just five occassions: 1949, 1958, 1963, 1967 and 1974 in the Belgian seaside town of Knokke-le-Zoute.
Nine of Len Lye’s films screened in the first festival in 1949; however, my particular interest in this festival is the second edition, held as part of the 1958 World Exhibition in Brussels. It was here that Lye’s Free Radicals(1958) was awarded Second Grand Prize (from a total of 137 participating films) by a panel of judges which included John Grierson, Man Ray and Norman McLaren. Lye’s financial gain from this win wasn’t enough to cover the costs of making Free Radicals and in the months following this win he decalared himself on strike, formally publishing notice of this strike in his 1963 Film Culture essay, ‘Is Film Art?’.
Check out the trailor for EXPRMNTL below and more details here.