Wednesday, March 9, 2016 at 7:30pm
A Conversation with Lynn Hershman Leeson
155 Freeman Street, Brooklyn
They say that sometimes a writer feels better around printer’s ink; I felt better around electronics. It has always had a charged, physical effect on me. - Lynn Hershman Leeson
Light Industry hosts an evening with Lynn Hershman Leeson, who for over half a century has been at the forefront of investigating the shifting relationships between art, technology, gender, and identity.
Hershman’s work has spanned a remarkable array of mediums: painting, sculpture, collage, and photography; analog and digital video; writing and performance; installation and site-specific public art; feature filmmaking and documentary; custom hardware and software. In some of her first electronically-enhanced works like Breathing Machine (1967) and Self Portrait as Another Person (1965)—two sculptures that could sense and react to the presence of a gallery-goer—she sought to bring an interactive experience to the viewer long before “interactivity” had became a Silicon Valley buzzword. Early on, Hershman saw that communicative feedback through a technological double would raise profound questions about the nature of personhood, and the lines between the real and the virtual. This impulse would inform many forward-looking projects, whose significance in some cases took years to be appreciated for their groundbreaking contributions. From 1974 to 1979, Hershman invented and enacted the fictional persona Roberta Breitmore, an alter-ego fashioned from stereotypical psychological data who came to exist in real time across multiple artifacts and instantiations, including film, photos, slides, “surveillance reports,” letters, and the character’s own credit cards, bank account, driver’s license, and psychotherapy sessions. In 1980, Hershman created the first interactive artwork employing nascent video disk technology; entitled Lorna, its protagonist is an agoraphobic woman who struggles to make choices for herself, and thus requires the viewer’s input in order to move her own narrative forward. As both Roberta Breitmore and Lorna attest, the question of female subjectivity and its precise technological inflections is another thread that has run through her work, taking up themes that would later be explored by speculative feminist writers like Donna Haraway and Pat Cadigan, among others
Originally begun as an exercise in editing video, Leeson’s series Electronic Diaries (1985-1990) uses the camera as a confessional and a cybernetic extension of the self, intuiting a process that would explode in the wider culture, from webcams to Snapchat. In the 1990s she began her foray into independent feature filmmaking with the innovative trio Conceiving Ada (1997), Teknolust (2002), and Strange Culture (2007), which concern, respectively, the figure of 19th-century algorithmic programming pioneer Countess Ada Lovelace, a cyberpunk tale of artificial intelligence and nanotechnology, and the 2004 bioterrorism charges taken by Homeland Security against artist and researcher Steve Kurtz of Critical Art Ensemble. Each displays a complex mixture of fact and fiction that responded to the technological developments occurring at their moment of production: for Teknolust, the character of Ruby, a self-replicating digital entity, was extended beyond the film itself through Agent Ruby (2002), an autonomous Web-based artificial intelligence that has been communicating and learning from users since its inception. Hershman’s most recent feature is the documentary !Women Art Revolution (2010), which uses four decades of interviews and footage from Hershman’s personal archive to tell the story of the feminist art movement and its far-reaching impact on society and politics.
To mark the publication of Civic Radar, a definitive monograph on Hershman’s work, Light Industry will present an event-long conversation with the artist and Artforum Editor-in-Chief Michelle Kuo.
Tickets - Pay-what-you-wish ($8 suggested donation), available at door.
Please note: seating is limited. First-come, first-served. Box office opens at 7pm.