We use cookies to help us understand how you use our site, and make your experience better. To find out more read our privacy policy.




Full screen
Video quality

Low 0 MB

High 0 MB


Hero image for Flip & Two Twisters

Flip & Two Twisters

Television (Full Length) – 1995


A Perspective

The title of this documentary takes its name from one of Len Lye's most complex and theatrical sculptures. Its climax is the installation and performance of Flip & Two Twisters at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, in New Plymouth. Along the way, the film explains Lye's "art of motion" with the help of historic footage and interviews with the artist. As American film critic David Bordwell says, the footage of Lye at work is "a real revelation".

Len Lye: "One of my art teachers put me onto trying to find my own art theory. After many morning walks ... an idea hit me that seemed like a complete revelation. It was to compose motion, just as musicians compose sound. [The idea] was to lead me far, far away from wanting to excel in ... traditional art."

Lye's career began in 1910 with an interest in modern art developments in Europe. This led him to explore movement as a direct basis of art, far beyond the possibilities of human movement in dance. He developed a new way of making films by painting images directly on to film. Excerpts from a number of his films are included — Tusalava (1929), Trade Tatoo (1937), Rainbow Dance (1936), Swinging the Lambeth Walk (1936), and Free Radicals (1958).

In the 1950's Lye's attention turned to motor-driven kinetic sculptures. He began making moving objects from sprung steel that utilised the material's natural harmonics. For this documentary, cinematographer Leon Narbey dynamically filmed many of these sculptures in action — Universe, Bell Dance, Zebra, Sky Snake, Roundhead, Grass, Fountain, Blade, Flip & Two Twisters, and a prototype Wind Wand (a larger version of the latter is now installed on New Plymouth's foreshore). They boing and bounce, rattle and shudder. They surprise with their freshness, flexibility and rhythms.

There are interviews with the people behind the production of the highly technical kinetic sculptures — the Len Lye Foundation, Canterbury University's Engineering Department, and Levin Sawmakers — as well as art historians Tina Barton and Wystan Curnow, and New York-based expatriate artist Max Gimblett.

Sculptor Evan Webb appears throughout the documentary installing Lye's sculptures in art galleries and outdoor spaces, and providing an artist's insight into the works. Webb worked as consultant on the documentary, and has been a key member of the team within the Len Lye Foundation who realise the artist's ideas. As artist Max Gimblett explains, Lye imagined the works, but "left it to the future to build them".

Director Shirley Horrocks knew Lye personally, as did her partner Roger Horrocks who wrote a biography of the artist. Shirley's documentary provides a wide-ranging introduction to the work of this remarkable New Zealand-born artist.

- Mary-Jane Duffy has written for magazines (The Listener), museums (Te Papa) and art galleries. She wrote an arts column for Wellington magazine FishHead, and now manages and teaches for the Creative Writing Programme at Whitireia Institute of Technology.

If you liked this, you might also like...

Thumbnail image for Work of Art

Work of Art

This was a series of stand-alone documentaries that...

Collection image for The Animation Collection

The Animation Collection

From talking chickens to dancing Cossacks, feast on this...

Collection image for Kiwi Ingenuity

Kiwi Ingenuity

Embodied in heroes from Pearse to PJ, Kiwi ingenuity is a...

Collection image for Artists on Screen Collection

Artists on Screen Collection

For this screen showcase of NZ visual arts talent, critic...

Collection image for Sculpture


A collection about some of New Zealand's notable...

Thumbnail image for Swinging the Lambeth Walk

Swinging the Lambeth Walk

1939 Music Video by Len Lye

Thumbnail image for Doodlin' - Impressions of Len Lye

Doodlin' - Impressions of Len Lye

Another documentary on Len Lye

Thumbnail image for Questions for Mr Reynolds

Questions for Mr Reynolds

Another Shirley Horrocks film about a Kiwi artist

Thumbnail image for Intent to Construct

Intent to Construct

Documentary about sculptor Paul Dibble

Thumbnail image for Nola - Our Own New Zealand Girl

Nola - Our Own New Zealand Girl

Another Kiwi who made their mark in the USA

Thumbnail image for Takis Unlimited

Takis Unlimited

Another example of Kinetic sculpture

Thumbnail image for Being Billy Apple

Being Billy Apple

Documentary on conceptual artist Billy Apple

Thumbnail image for Lovely Rita

Lovely Rita

Documentary about artist Rita Angus

Thumbnail image for This is Your Life - Nola Luxford

This is Your Life - Nola Luxford

Another Kiwi who made her mark in the United States

Thumbnail image for Sweet As

Sweet As

Another Shirley Horrocks documentary

Thumbnail image for Profiles - Neil Dawson

Profiles - Neil Dawson

Another sculptor

Thumbnail image for The Big Art Trip - Series One, Episode Five

The Big Art Trip - Series One, Episode Five

Len Lye’s work features in this arts series

Thumbnail image for One Man and the Sea

One Man and the Sea

Film about artist Michael Smither

Thumbnail image for When a Warrior Dies

When a Warrior Dies

Includes the work of sculptor Chris Booth

Thumbnail image for Tom Who? The Enigma of Tom Kreisler

Tom Who? The Enigma of Tom Kreisler

Another Shirley Horrocks film about a Kiwi artist

Thumbnail image for Paul Callaghan: Dancing with Atoms

Paul Callaghan: Dancing with Atoms

Another documentary directed by Horrocks

Thumbnail image for A Film of Real Time: A Light-Sound Environment

A Film of Real Time: A Light-Sound Environment

Short film about a Govett-Brewster art installation

Thumbnail image for Kaleidoscope - Frances Hodgkins

Kaleidoscope - Frances Hodgkins

Another Kiwi in London's Seven and Five Society

Thumbnail image for The Big Picture - Episode Five

The Big Picture - Episode Five

Len Lye features in this episode about NZ artists

Thumbnail image for Room 2

Room 2

Early experimental short by cinematographer Leon Narbey