I have known New Zealand artist Len Lye´s films for a long time, but was unaware of his kinetic sculptures until recently. I found the Universe sculpture from 1976 especially interesting. The Len Lye foundation did a remake of it in 1998, completely silent except for the sound made by the steel.
City of Sound did a nice post on Lye some years ago, and I will requote their Lye quote: “One of my art teachers put me onto trying to find my own art theory. After many morning walks an idea hit me that seemed like a complete revelation. It was to compose motion, just as musicians compose sound. [The idea] was to lead me far, far away from wanting to excel in traditional art.”
You can find several of Lye´s films by doing a search on youtube (although the quality isn´t very good), Free Radicals and Swinging the Lambeth Walk are two good examples of his work. What makes them really stand out today is the combination of the experimental nature of the visual side with the soundtracks of african drums and happy jazz.
There are two documentaries made on Lye, Doodlin´: Impressions of Len Lye, and A Flip and Two Twisters.
Addendum: There is also a third documentary about Lye (thanks Pip Chodorov)
Here is a an excerpt from the first one where you can see the Universe sculpture in action:
Roger Horrocks has written a biography on Lye, but it seems to be available only as a collector´s item at the moment. Horrocks has written a new book, Len Lye – ART THAT MOVES – which will be published by Auckland University Press in November 2009.
Here is a website which gives a good overview of the work of Lye.
Re-voir has a collection of Lye´s films on VHS (thanks again to Pip Chodorov).
And check out my quite extensive post on kinetic art.