26 June 2022

Sculptor Liliane Lijn has
chosen to ‘see the world in
terms of light and energy’

‘Light Pyramid’ by Liliane Lijn forms part of the view along Midsummer Avenue in Milton Keynes at sunset on Midsummer evening (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Patrick Comerford

During my mid-summer visit to Campbell Park in Milton Keynes at the end of last week, I stopped to admire the ‘Light Pyramid,’ a sculpture by Liliane Lijn, that forms part of the view along Midsummer Avenue at sunset on Midsummer evening.

The ‘Light Pyramid’ was commissioned by the Parks Trust in Milton Keynes in 2012 to replace the original basket beacon on the Belvedere that was removed after a lightning strike.

The ‘Light Pyramid’ is made of steel and painted white. It was first illuminated for Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee ten years ago and is still lit to commemorate special local and national events.

The ‘Light Pyramid’ is by Dr Liliane Lijn, an American-born artist who has lived in London since 1966. She is known for her cone-shaped Koan series.

She was the first woman artist to work with kinetic text (‘Poem Machines’), exploring both light and text as early as 1962. She is also said to be the first woman artist to have exhibited a work incorporating an electric motor.

Utilising original combinations of industrial materials and artistic processes, Liliane Lijn is recognised for pioneering the interaction of art, science, technology, eastern philosophy and feminine mythology. In conversation with Fluxus artist and writer Charles Dreyfus, she said she primarily chose to ‘see the world in terms of light and energy.’

Liliane Lijn’s work covers a large spectrum of interests, from Light and its interaction with diverse new materials to the development of a fresh image for the feminine. She has taken inspiration from incidental details both human-made and natural, mythology and poetry, science and technology.

Lijn is interested in the development of language, collaborating across disciplines and making art that is interactive, in which the viewer can actively participate.

She was born in New York in 1939, and studied archaeology at the Sorbonne and art history at the Ecole du Louvre in Paris.

She lived in New York in 1961-1963, when she was the artist in residence at a plastics factory, experimenting with fire and acids. There she worked with light, poetry, movement and liquids, and many international exhibitions established her as a leading kinetic artist.

She returned to Paris to work in 1963-1964, when she exhibited her first kinetic light works and ‘Poem Machines.’ She then lived in Athens (1964-1966), making use of natural forces in her sculpture.

She moved to London in 1966, and in 1974 she staged the performance ‘The Power Game,’ a text-based gambling game and socio-political farce for the Festival for Chilean Liberation at the RCA.

She has been the artist in residence or has received fellowships at Northumberland, the University of Newcastle, and the University of California, Berkeley, in partnership with NASA and the Leonardo Network.

Her work has been displayed or exhibited across the world, from Gwangju in China to Leeds and London, from Paris to San Francisco. Her many awards include a doctorate (DLitt) from the University of Warwick (2005).

She worked with NASA to develop installations using aerogel, and has written a brief libretto, ‘The Descent of Inanna,’ with a score by Morgan Hayes.

Liliane Lijn has been invited to the 59th International Art Exhibition of the Biennale in Venice this year (23 April to 27 November 2022).

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