Cultural Icons interview: Roger Horrocks

Roger Horrocks, friend and biographer of Len Lye, film maker, advocate and educator, activist and author is interviewed by Denys Trussell


From an early age Roger Horrocks found in art and astronomy solace from the conservative tentacles of 1950’s Auckland suburbia. That early act of escapism has enriched the cultural fabric of New Zealand.

In this Cultural Icons interview Roger reflects on his various voyages and encounters, both intellectual and geographic: from Kingsland to religious fervour, from French existentialism to backyard astronomy, from sharing a smoke with Allen Ginsberg to experiencing the political electricity in the air of University of California at Berkeley pre-1968.

This interview is peppered with accolades and respectful hat-tippings to film history, jazz, continental philosophy, and the mind-bending language of American poetry: all of these within the context of a New Zealand experiencing intellectual growing pains.

Roger talks of his love for some of film history’s longest lasting forefathers (Godard, Bergman, Eisenstein, etc) and his disappointment in the lack of similar film-making clans. Yet, rather than being another passive Cahiers du Cinema aficionado, Roger found in that knowledge the academic tools to create and spearhead the Department of Film, Television and Media Studies at Auckland University in 1974 and also to become one of the founding members of the Auckland International Film Festival. He has also served as Deputy Chair of NZ on Air and was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit (MNZM) in the New Year Honours list for his “services to the film and television industries” in 2004.

Of course, it is impossible to speak of Roger Horrocks and omit the looming presence of Len Lye. Roger explains his life-changing fall under the spell of the kinetic sculptor and film maker. He talks about the friendship and collaborations that ensued; including trying to convince a panel of local academics that Len Lye was actually a human being, and the biography Horrocks had written was not some sort of academic prank a la Ern Malley.

Most recently, Roger finished a libretto for an upcoming opera based on the life of Lye (in collaboration with Cultural Icon Eve de Castro-Robinson) and, along with his wife Shirley, is completing a film about the passage of Venus.

Written by

Depot Artspace

8 Mar 2012