Liliane Lijn: I made Lady of the Wild Things in 1983. As a result of recent performances I had given from my book Crossing Map, I had the idea to make the figure responsive to the human voice. I designed a system that would allow the sculpture to transform sound into light emitted by 250 LEDs. The LEDs were inserted into the perforations of the steel wings in patterns corresponding to 6 channels that related to both volume and different sound frequencies. Therefore, the larger the vocal range expressed, the greater the spread of light across the sculpture. In addition, an increase in volume increases the speed of change of the lights. The wings are covered with a fine plumage of red and green fibres. The head, a tank prism, is encased in a headdress of very fine black aluminium mesh. The double mesh creates moiré patterns that pulsate as one moves around the sculpture.
I took my title from Robert Graves who mentions the Lady of the Wild Things in The White Goddess. In reinventing the archetype of the Goddess, I wanted to reinvest the feminine with spiritual power. Lady of the Wild Things is patterned on the lunar archetype. Her light side, which is woven in red and green fibres, opposite and complimentary colours, remains passive until activated by sound, but is warm and engaging, even seductive. Her dark side is all embracing and, as death is in our society, unacknowledged. As the archetype from which she takes her name, she represents life in death and death in life. As if her reaction to sound begged for a singer as a complimentary figure, the inspiration for my next work came from a song I wrote that spoke with a violence and anger that I did not know was mine. I felt as if the earth was singing through me, although the lyrics are complex and hold more than one meaning. These lyrics described the Woman of War. It then became apparent that the Woman of War would sing to Lady of the Wild Things, who would respond to her song with light. I called the ritual enacted by the two sculptures a Conjunction of Opposites, a dialogue between two female figures, the one reflective, transforming, sensual and the other a fierce warrior, part bird, part insect, part machine.
Liliane Lijn in conversation with Melissa Budasz, for Art Verve, Issue 5, 2016. Reproduced with the permission of the artist.
Title: Conjunction of Opposites: Woman of War and Lady of the Wild Things. Date: 1983-86. Format/Materials: Installation of two mixed media performing sculptures. Dimensions: 400 x 800 x 400 cm. Picture Credit: Thierry Bal courtesy of the artist. Individual works:
Lady of the Wild Thing: Painted steel, glass prism, aluminium mesh, synthetic fibres, l.e.d.s, electronic sound to light system.
Woman of War: Painted steel and aluminium, synthetic fibres, glass prism, aluminium mesh, audio system, 5 milliwatt helium laser, smoke machine, computer.