Old Brain

Updated on Sun, 08/09/2020 - 12:04
Phil Dadson, Lisa Roberts, 2008
Buenos Aires / Spanish
Len Lye had this concept of the Old Brain: trapped in the core of our minds are ancient remnants of knowledge.


Phil Dadson, 2008, at Art in Antarctica conference, Buenos Aires, in the Old Brain animation:

Len Lye had this concept of the Old Brain, and believed that when ...we're doodling, that your subconscious, or this Old Brain came into play, and produced images related to genetic information from your very primitive beginnings. That's why I kind of thought of some of your imagery you created from your Antarctic research, some of the microscopic forms are very similar to some of the forms he came up with. 

Lisa Roberts, 2010, Antarctic Animation. PhD thesis, University of New South Wales

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.

Then, in 2008, while setting up our work in Buenos Aires for the 'Sur Polar' exhibition, the New Zealand sound artist Phil Dadson and I got talking. He explained Len Lye's notion of the Old Brain. Listening to his words, I drew and animated in a time line, to the rhythm of the 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 other cycles 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 Greenhouse World.


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