The Art and Films of Lynn Hershman Leeson

The Art and Films of Lynn Hershman Leeson: Secret Agents, Private I

EDITED BY MEREDITH TROMBLE
FOREWORD BY ROBIN HELD
WITH A DVD EDITED BY KYLE STEPHAN
Copyright Date: 2005
Edition: 1
Pages: 248
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/j.ctt1pp2dt
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  • Book Info
    The Art and Films of Lynn Hershman Leeson
    Book Description:

    Lynn Hershman Leeson's groundbreaking installation, performance, photography, video, digital, and film works have earned her an international reputation as a prodigious and innovative artist. This first historical and critical analysis of her work by prominent scholars and the artist herself brings nearly forty years of creative output into focus by tracking the development of her constant themes through each medium. The provocative essays in this volume, ranging from formal to theoretical to psychological to poetical analyses, establish her place at the forefront of contemporary art. Hershman Leeson's work explores vision, spectatorship, and the construction of sexed subjectivity, touching on key feminist concerns relating to the lived experience of the physical body and the body as a medium on which social law and values are inscribed. Her projects of self-analysis and self mythification explode stable notions of identity.The Art and Films of Lynn Hershman Leesondemonstrates how Hershman Leeson's work uniquely mirrors fragmented human subjectivity at the beginning of the twenty-first century. Especially useful are the artist's updated chronology and a DVD with excerpts from several of her works.Copub: Henry Art Gallery, University of Washington

    eISBN: 978-0-520-93744-4
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-ix)
  3. FOREWORD: HERSHMANLANDIA
    (pp. xi-xix)
    ROBIN HELD

    For thirty-five years, the San Francisco artist and filmmaker Lynn Hershman Leeson has explored the relationship of spectatorship to identity.¹ A pioneer of “new media” art, she has introduced technological innovations in her work since the 1970s; her achievements in this field include one of the first interactive artworks on videodisc, the forerunner of the DVD (Lorna,1983– 84); the first artwork to use a touch-screen interface (Deep Contact,1984–89); one of the earliest networked robotic art installations (The Difference Engine#3, 1995–98); and the Lynn Hershman Leeson (LHL) Process for Virtual Sets, first used in her feature...

  4. INTRODUCTION: BREAKING THE CODE
    (pp. 1-11)
    HOWARD N. FOX

    This book offers the first sustained critical attention to the art of Lynn Hershman. Hershman is a highly regarded personage who rightly figures in any comprehensive history of American art of the past thirty years or so. Numerous solo and group exhibition catalogues present substantial commentary on her art; articles on her work that have appeared in diverse journals and periodicals can be readily gathered or assimilated; and several recent books on feminist, conceptual, and performance art and video and new media cogently assess her production. Yet only now, in this volume, is a book-length study of her achievement being...

  5. PRIVATE I: AN INVESTIGATOR’S TIMELINE
    (pp. 13-103)
    LYNN HERSHMAN

    According to a national database, there are several people in the United States named Lynn Hershman. For example, Lynn Hershman was born November 14, 1949, in Connecticut and died February 19, 1976. Lynn Hershman also lives in Rancho Palos Verdes, California; Manteca, California; and Phoenix, Arizona. I am none of the above.

    Simultaneously with compiling this book, I hired Jayson Wechter, a licensed private eye, to excavate as many public records as possible about Lynn Hershman. I wanted to determine if, indeed, a private I existed.

    Within a very short time, Jayson sent me a virtual archaeology of my history,...

  6. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  7. ROBERTA BREITMORE LIVES ON
    (pp. 105-111)
    AMELIA JONES

    I never met Roberta in person, but she seems as “real” to me as those performers I’ve seen in the flesh—Annie Sprinkle, Tim Miller, Karen Finley, and others. Roberta’s vivacity—her connectedness to what philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty has called theflesh of the world— keeps her alive as an embodied trope of the hinge between live art and its postmodern variations in the culture of simulation. Roberta enacts what Merleau-Ponty calls “the reversibility,” defining the flesh as “capable of weaving relations between bodies that . . . will not only enlarge, but will pass definitively beyond the circle of...

  8. COMPOSING WITH IMAGES: LYNN HERSHMAN’S PHOTOGRAPHY
    (pp. 113-125)
    GLENN KURTZ

    Image manipulation has accompanied photography throughout its history as the repressed accompanies consciousness. In 1839 Daguerre announced that the daguerreotype “is a chemical and physical process which gives [nature] the power to reproduce herself.”¹ Every subsequent claim for photography’s objectivity reproduces Daguerre’s assertion.What the camera sees is true.That same year Hippolyte Bayard—who had invented a rival photographic process—produced the first falsified photograph,Self-Portrait as a Drowned Man.Bayard, in a witty challenge to Daguerre, demonstrated that the photograph is not master in its own house.The camera sees what is put before it.Photographic objectivity is...

  9. CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTIFICATION: LYNN HERSHMAN’S PARANOID MIRROR
    (pp. 127-137)
    ABIGAIL SOLOMON-GODEAU

    In more than two decades of artistic production embracing a spectacular range of media (from performance to ceramics; from manipulated photography to interactive video installation), Lynn Hershman has explored continuously the complex relations between looking, being looked at, gender, and subjectivity. Such a preoccupation is hardly surprising; for an artist dealing with technologies of vision, spectacle, and spectatorship, the political as well as psychic stakes that underpin the field of vision are urgent, compelling, and inescapable.

    One of the crucial precepts of feminist theory is that the act of looking is neither neutral nor innocent (as in the sense of...

  10. MEDIA PHANTASMAGORIA
    (pp. 139-143)
    JEAN GAGNON

    When discussing her interactive video installationRoom of One’s Own(1990–93), Lynn Hershman readily acknowledges its ancestry in Thomas Edison’s kinetoscope, invented in 1891.¹ Better known as the “peep show,” the kinescope may, to paraphrase Olivier Kaeppelin, be thought of as theater that embodies the solitude at the core of our relationships with one another.² In Hershman’s videotapes, we encounter this theater of solitude once again.

    Like the kinescope,Room of One’s Ownconstructs the framework for “another scene” based on the scopic drive, by which “the passion to see, the passion to know, and sexuality are inextricably combined...

  11. LYNN HERSHMAN: THE SUBJECT OF AUTOBIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 145-157)
    DAVID E. JAMES

    Lynn Hershman’sThe Electronic Diaries(1986–) was a crucial breakthrough for her own career as an artist and indeed for artists’ video generally. A summary restatement of many of the concerns of feminist video of the previous decade and a half, it turned out to be an immensely fertile matrix that quickly generated a series of further tapes—Longshot(1989),Desire Inc.(1990),Seeing Is Believing(1991), andConspiracy of Silence(1991)—elaborating the themes it had developed. In placingThe Electronic Diariesand the tapes it engendered within the theoretical parameters of autobiography, my primary concern is with...

  12. MY OTHER, MY SELF: LYNN HERSHMAN AND THE REINVENTION OF THE GOLEM
    (pp. 159-167)
    B. RUBY RICH

    At first glance, it would appear that the 1970s feminist art world has been the animating influence for Lynn Hershman’s oeuvre of performance work, video art, and feature films. After all, that influence is inscribed in such recurring details as her heroic female protagonists, the alwaysevident female mastery of technology, her use of confession as a central cathartic trope, and her insistence on airing the personal ill for the public good. But that would be an insufficient précis. Equally present are the effects and aftereffects of male figureheads and compatriots such as Timothy Leary, John Perry Barlow, and Josh Kornbluth....

  13. A CINEMA OF INTELLIGENT AGENTS: CONCEIVING ADA AND TEKNOLUST
    (pp. 169-181)
    MARSHA KINDER

    Although he voiced disdain for female scientists, Albert Einstein acknowledged that Nobel Prize winner Marie Curie was a rare exception, a creative woman. He quickly reassured his second wife, Elsa, however, that this unique woman posed no romantic threat to their marriage. Curie, he said, “has sparkling intelligence but, despite her passionate nature, is not attractive enough to be a danger to anyone.” Frau Einstein replied with confidence, “She has the soul of a herring.”¹

    As if to counter this misguided assumption that soulful, sexually attractive women are incapable of producing creative work in science—a view still held by...

  14. ROMANCING THE ANTI-BODY: LUST AND LONGING IN (CYBER) SPACE
    (pp. 183-187)
    LYNN HERSHMAN

    The pretense of being another person, or even several other people, is a precondition of electronic access; an identity is the first thing you create when you log onto an Internet service. Masks and self-disclosures are part of the grammar of cyberspace, part of the syntax of computer-mediated identity. In cyberspace, “one” can manifest multiple, simultaneous identities that abridge and dislocate gender and age. Yet these masking devices are like thumbprints or signatures in that they always bear some reference to their origins.

    Masks may camouflage the physical body, but they also liberate a vulnerable and protected personal voice. New...

  15. ANIMATING THE NETWORK
    (pp. 189-199)
    STEVE DIETZ

    We all like to make a narrative out of our past, as if it could provide a trajectory for our future. After more than thirty years of exceptional—literally—artwork, there is a well-worn narrative trajectory to the career of Lynn Hershman, from the pharisee curators who would not allow sound into the temple of art to the first site-specific artwork at the Dante Hotel, to the Roberta Breitmore “performance,” to the revelation of video and Hershman’s video revelations, to the first artist-produced interactive laser disc to . . . the network. Nevertheless, Hershman’s story seems to be as much...

  16. DOUBLE TALK: THE COUNTERSTORY OF LYNN HERSHMAN
    (pp. 201-208)
    MEREDITH TROMBLE

    Once Lynn Hershman hit upon her story, she stuck to it—the story of a body with more minds than it knows what to do with or of a mind manifesting through several bodies. Time after time, her tale of multiplicity unfolds, resolves, and concludes, only to return in a new form with the next wave of work. The tributary themes of her work—memory, voyeurism, surveillance, seduction, and authenticity—flow from the condition of multiplicity. How can one remember if there is no “one”? What are the boundaries of a “self ” and how are contacts between “selves” negotiated?...

  17. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. 209-212)
  18. CONTRIBUTORS
    (pp. 213-216)
  19. List of Illustrations
    (pp. 217-220)
  20. CONTENTS OF DVD
    (pp. 221-222)
  21. INDEX
    (pp. 223-229)
  22. Back Matter
    (pp. 230-230)