Len Lye, Rainbow Dance, 1936
Courtesy of the Len Lye Foundation and the British Postal Museum and Archive. From material preserved and made available by Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Len Lye, Rainbow Dance, 1936
Courtesy of the Len Lye Foundation and the British Postal Museum and Archive. From material preserved and made available by Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Exhibition

6 Jun — 1 Nov 2020

Len Lye: The Absolute Truth of the Happiness Acid

A celebration of Len Lye’s filmmaking, the medium that resulted in the most international acclaim for the artist.

Often dubbed 'the father of the music video', Lye stands behind one of the most influential bodies of film ever produced.

Our most comprehensive survey of Len Lye’s films presented alongside an extensive survey of studio tools and materials behind the making of the films.

Produced in collaboration with Berlin-based exhibition designers Kooperative für Darstellungspolitik, The Absolute Truth of the Happiness Acid explores new methods of presenting Lye’s films in the gallery environment, with extensive use of archival materials to expose Lye’s handmade approach to filmmaking.

Len Lye’s films arrived at the end of the silent film era with an experimental impulse driving the artist through the 1930s to create one of the richest veins in British cinema.

 

Commissioned by commercial and governmental organisations to put their messages into exciting short films, Lye pushed cinema to its limits, frequently using the commissions as vehicles for his ‘direct method’ of animation.

 

Lye painted directly onto film with little to no camerawork involved. His bold, rhythmic and colourful abstract films were seen by millions in British cinemas. A move to New York in 1944 transplanted Lye into the vanguard of American experimental cinema where his 1958 ‘scratch’ film Free Radicals confirmed Lye as a master filmmaker.

 

The exhibition takes its title from a lecture delivered by Lye in 1968 at the Cambridge Animation Festival where he appeared as the keynote ‘celebrity speaker’. Lye spoke about his theory of the ‘old brain’ – creativity drawn from our ancient DNA rather than our modern intellect.

 

As the title for this exhibition, the ‘happiness acid’ invites us inside Lye’s films and their processes, and to feel the energies at play in his experimental approach to filmmaking.