Old brain

animation: Lisa Roberts
Sydney 2008

voice: Phil Dadson
Buenos Aires, 2008



Len Lye had this concept of the Old Brain.

Phil Dadson, Buenos Aires, 2008

Seeing Sydney Nolan's designs for the ballet, Icare at the National Gallery of Victoria, 14 December 2007, I recognised figures that appear in my drawings.

Spontaneous doodlings
can free the old brain
to recognise things
that have always been there.



While setting up our work in Buenos Aires

for the 'Sur Polar' show last March,

Phil Dadson explained

Len Lye's notion of the Old Brain.

Listening to his words, I drew

and animated in a time line

to Milankovitch cycles.

The vertical line moving across the screen

marks the 'eccentric' cycle of Earth's orbit round the sun.

This is the longest of three cycles that set the natural patterns

of climate change, between glacial and interglacial periods.

Within a time frame of 100,000 years

the elliptical shape of Earth's orbit changes.

Within this cyclic pattern,

two others occur:

the tilting of the Earth's axis

and a wobbling, like a top, around that axis.

Together these three motions

set our distance from the sun over time.

Within these cycles

life forms grow, change and die.

Human actions, we believe,

have upset the natural pattern,

tipping the balance

towards an untimely Greenhous World.


[Len Lye] practised a form of automatism,
in which he attempted to suppress
his more recently evolved 'new brain'
to free his 'old brain'
to produce his 'doodlings' and his writing.
He exhibited with the surrealists in London in the 1930s,
but generally found them too literary,
and far from his ideal of
'the kinetic of the body's rhythms'.

Arthur Cantrill,
'The Absolute Truth of the Happiness Acid', 1968