Lynn Hershman Leeson has spent the last five decades creating pioneering work in new media. Through films, sculptures, and installation projects, Leeson examines issues of identity, technology, and gender. Anticipating our intimate relationship to technology, the creation of virtual identities, and the expansion of the surveillance state as early as the 1970s, much of her work has existed outside the traditional space of the art gallery as site-specific installations, often a reaction to work being removed from gallery shows by curators. A recent retrospective at the ZKM Center for Art and Media in Karlsruhe Germany included about 70 percent never-before-seen work. “People told me it wasn’t art,” Leeson said.
Having just released a 383-page monograph of her life’s work, Civic Radar, the artist will be visiting FIT the first week of April. In addition to classroom visits with both Fine Arts and Film and Media Studies students, Leeson will present her film Teknolust, starring Tilda Swinton, at the Film and Media Screening Series on Tuesday, April 4, at 6:30 pm. (Note: Her previously scheduled ARTSpeak lecture for Thursday, April 6, has been cancelled.)
In 1972, Leeson installed several of her Machines alongside more conventional drawings in an exhibition at the Berkeley Museum of Art. The sculptures of female heads were rigged to play recordings of the artist breathing, talking, and laughing when a hidden motion sensor was triggered. When she returned to her installation a few days later, she discovered the curators had removed the sculptures.
In these black-and-white photo collages, created before the advent of Photoshop, female bodies are merged with machinery. Objects such as cameras, binoculars, electric plugs, clocks, and televisions replace the limbs of these technologically mutated women.
In this sci-fi drama Tilda Swinton plays four parts, including Rosetta Stone, a scientist specializing in biogenetics who has created three self-replicating automatons who rely on sperm to survive. When one of the cyborgs begins to explore the world during a mission to retrieve sperm for herself and her sisters, we discover what happens when science leaves the laboratory and starts to change the world.
In Home Front, footage of a married couple is incorporated into a Gothic-style dollhouse. Visible only through the window, a 33-minute unedited sequence shows the dissolution of an idyllic domestic scene into a disturbing and violent fight. Another window of the dollhouse features a 26-minute loop of footage of the couple recounting the events, each giving subjective, conflicting interpretations of their dispute.
Through intimate interviews, art, and rarely seen archival film and video footage, !Women Art Revolution reveals how the Feminist Art movement fused free speech and politics into works that radically transformed the art and culture of our times. The film won first prize in the Montreal Festival for Films on Art and has been hailed by the Museum of Modern Art as one of the three best documentaries of 2012. Holland Cotter of The New York Times called it “the most comprehensive documentary ever made on the feminist art movement.”