Len Lye on the Home Front

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Kill or Be Killed (1942)

This week I’ll be introducing a programme of Len Lye’s films at Stadtkino Basel accompanying the symposium hosted by Museum Tinguely and the University of Basel. Len Lye on the Home Front presents eight of Lye’s films made during the Second World War and a work from his early days in New York, the March of Time newsreel, Night Club Boom.

Many of these films are rarely screened. Musical Poster #1 (1942) and Kill or Be Killed (1942) tend to be represented in summaries of Lye’s filmmaking; however, Newspaper Train (1942), When the Pie was Opened (1941) and Work Party (1942) in particular deserve more attention.

Len Lye at Museum Tinguely #1

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I’m just coming to the end of three days in Basel assisting with some preparation for Museum Tinguely’s upcoming exhibition Len Lye – Motion Composer. Opening in October, this will be the most substantial exhibition of Lye’s work ever seen in Europe. Previous surveys at the Pompidou Centre and Ikon Gallery, Birmingham were large exhibitions but Motion Composer is a very deep dig into the Len Lye Foundation collections at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery.

More info on the exhibition is here.

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Working with a view of the Rhine

One of the highlights of being in Basel again is seeing Jean Tinguely’s restored Méta-Harmonie II.  Likewise, with Motion Composer, Museum Tinguely will be including a number of recently restored Len Lye works from the Art Institute of Chicago and the Albright-Knox Art Museum.

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Jean Tinguely, MétaHarmonie II, 1979

 

New season’s exhibitions

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Introducing Mikala Dwyer’s Earthcraft, credit Alessandra Keighley

On 6 April the Govett-Brewster launched a new season of exhibitions including Mikala Dwyer’s Earthcraft (curated by Sarah Wall), Nicolás Paris’ what connects us (curated by Sarah Wall), Suspended Agency: An installation by Peter Wareing (curated by Mark Williams, Circuit), He Rere Ke – Different Pathways (curated by Gabrielle Belz) and several projects under my curation – Shannon Novak’s Sub Rosa and two Len Lye exhibitions, No Trouble and Art That Moves (co-curated with Emma Glucina).

I’ll follow up on each of these in more detail in the coming weeks. For now, here are a couple this week’s radio interviews concerning two projects. First, artist and curator Gabrielle Belz talking about her Open Collection project with us, He Rere Ke – Different Pathways. Second, Peter Wareing in conversation with Lynn Freeman around his new installation Suspended Agency.

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Peter Wareing Suspended Agency 2019, courtesy the artist

Weekend Reading

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Len Lye, ‘W. H. Auden’, 1947
Len Lye Foundation Collection, Govett-Brewster Art Gallery / Len Lye Centre

This week we celebrate W. H. Auden’s birthday. Here’s Hannah Arendt’s 1975 New Yorker piece on the poet and above is Len Lye’s 1947 photogram portrait of Auden. The portrait includes lines from Auden’s The Fall of Rome (in his own hand). You can find all of Lye’s photogram portraits in this publication, including Georgia O’Keeffe, Joan Miró, Hans Richter, Le Corbusier and Baby Dodds.

The Times Literary Supplement recently published Genevieve Yue’s Secret asphyxiating world: Films and the watery depths, a review of Erika Balsom’s An Oceanic Feeling: Cinema and the SeaYou’ll need to be a subscriber to the TLS to read online. The book can be purchased online via the Govett-Brewster in New Zealand or LUX in the UK.

Artist Shannon Novak has been interviewed about his thoughts on the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery with Home magazine. Shannon will be exhibiting in the next season of exhibitions (April – July 2019) at the Gallery with Sub Rosa.

A few weeks back I was interviewed for a Taranaki Daily News article about the Gallery’s screening of The Room (dir. Tommy Wiaeau), one of the stranger media moments I’ve experienced.

Reading about the downfall of New York art dealer Mary Boone I was directed to this interesting piece about her fellow dealer Leo Castelli.

Summer exhibitions and 2019 …

Last week I spoke at the opening of our new suite of exhibitions, a rather large suite featuring Haegue Yang’s first exhibition in Aotearoa, Triple Vita Nestings (touring from the IMA in Brisbane), Maureen Lander’s Flat-pack Whakapapa (touring from the Dowse Art Museum), new works from Richard Maloy and Jacqueline Elley and two new Len Lye exhibitions. This all wraps up 2018 and carries us through to 2019.

Here’s this week’s e-flux announcement of highlights from our 2019 programme.

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Credit: Mark Dwyer

The evening was also time to celebrate the work of Peter Peryer (1941-2018) who passed away in November. We arranged a small exhibition of Peter’s work for the summer season. The Govett-Brewster has a modest number of works in its collection which you can browse here. I’ll write more on Peter’s work in the coming weeks.

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Two easy pieces

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Credit: Kelly Loney

Here’s a couple of recent pieces from the Pantograph Punch.

First, Alice Tappenden interviews me on my role of Len Lye Curator at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery / Len Lye Centre.

Second,  Doug Dillaman discusses our recent An Oceanic Feeling projects with Erika Balsom alongside our wider film programming at the Govett-Brewster.

Is Film Art?

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‘Is Film Art?’ in ‘Free Radicals: Cinema on the Wrong Side of the Tracks’

It’s a big day in the office with today’s opening of our latest suite of exhibitions. For me, this means celebrating three exhibitions: Pretty Good for the 21st Century, Free Radicals: Cinema on the Wrong Side of the Tracks and Glitch Envy: Experimental Films by Jodie Mack.

The Free Radicals exhibition is the larger exhibition here and features works by Rodney Charters, Bruce Conner, Steve Cossman, Oskar Fischinger, Richard Lomas, Len Lye, Jodie Mack, and the Parasitic Fantasy Band (Eve Gordon/Sam Hamilton). The title of the show is obviously via Len Lye, but the subtitle was taken from Pip Chodorov in his similarly titled documentary Free Radicals: A History of Experimental Film, speaking of ‘cinema on the wrong side of the tracks’. Throughout the exhibition, we’re screening Chodorov’s film alongside the exhibition as well as Brecht Debackere’s EXPRMNTL documentary which explores the EXPRMNTL film festival held in Belgium between the 1940s and 1970s. It was here that Lye’s 1958 film Free Radicals won a prestigious 2nd place. Lye’s 1959 essay ‘Is Film Art?’ lamented the neglect of experimental cinema in the United States and declared he would no longer make experimental films.