Week 8: Lynn Hershman Leeson

This week I would like to discuss and to highlight the work of multi-media artist Lynn Hershman Leeson. Although we did not get the chance to discuss her work in depth during lecture, I think that she is an excellent example of a contemporary artist who explores issues concerning the world that are deeply affected by changes in technology and science as well as how they progress or change visual art as a whole. Some of the issues she explores through her art and films are feminist concerns, issues of identity and identity construction, consumerism and its sociological consequences, the relationship between humans and machines, and privacy issues in relation to surveillance and governmental monitoring in an age of rapid technological and computation-based advancements. Issues of identity, privacy, shift in gender roles, are all deeply affected and shaped by technology, science, computation, and the prevalence of art within a society. Her work tends to viscerally explore such ideas, as she embraces new technologies in work both conceptually and through her use of non-conventional mediums such as computers, robots, iPhone cases, security cameras, etc.

Most significantly, I think her work addresses perhaps one of the most rampant issues of our time-the increasingly blurred lines between “real,” lives versus that of our digital/virtual lives. It seems that many aspects of “real,” life including dating, social interaction and communication, grocery shopping, and even aspects of education are being increasingly replaced by digital/virtual forms of these activities by way of social media, online dating, online classes, etc. These advancements in technology can make our lives more convenient, allowing us to communicate, shop, meet new people, and express ourselves creatively to new audiences with less effort but due to the quick nature in which virtual life has expanded and invaded our culture, it seems that the negative side effects of these platforms have been less discussed or examined. I think that Hershman Leeson’s work questions the ways in which the virtual substitutes that have augmented or replaced formerly physical experiences affect our lives individually but also how they affect society as a whole. Here are some of her most notable (and relevant) projects that connect to the ideas we have explored in our class.


1. Lynn Hershman Leeson, “Agent Ruby” (1998–2002). Users can converse with Ruby, an artificial intelligent web entity.

*To interact with “Agent Ruby,” click on this link : http://agentruby.sfmoma.com/  (This project-I think-rather eerily predicts the use of robotics and reminds me of Siri enabled in iPhones.)


2. “iPhone Crack Series.” (2002)

“Continuing the themes of the now iconic Phantom Limb series, these recent works merge human bodies and the myth of personal identity with fracturing technological attributes of internet global communication, and thereby underscore how reliance on electronics and media and devices for image can invade not only the very image we are trying to capture, but also rupture the individuals sense of continuity. ” (via http://www.lynnhershman.com/iphone-crack-series/).


Lynn Hershman Leeson “Look at Me, ( 2011).

“2 channel synchronized installation inside doll house. Software design: Gian Pablo Villamil. Hotwire Office. In this 2-channel synchronized installation the artist explores spaces of domestic confrontation and the voyeuristic stance we the viewers/ readers take whether taken by our own choosing or presented by the media.” (via http://www.lynnhershman.com/home-front/).

4. Trailer of Teknolust (2002).

(This film seems to explore issues of gender, sexuality, and sexual inequality within society and culture through the lens of artificial life and artificial intelligence. It also examines the contested ethics (and consequentially, eugenics) of DNA, cloning, and other forms of AI, which reference other topics covered in our class).

*Note: I have been watching several clips via YouTube of this film as it is not available on Netflix, Hulu, etc. in the full version. Geisel also does not have a copy. If anyone knows where to find / rent it, please let me know!

-Mia Maguire




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