Lynn Hershman Leeson – New Media Artist

Lynn Hershman Leeson – New Media Artist and Filmmaker

Lynn Hershman Leeson is an artist and film maker and is renowned internationally.  I am interested in this artists because her work responds to many of the current work issues that I am interested in. Issues such as ‘the human and the machine interface’, consumerism and new technologies in art.

Lynn Hershman Leeson was named ‘the most influential woman working in New Media’ in 2004. There was a retrospective and catalogue of her work was held in the Zentrum fur Kunst Und Medientechnologie, Germany in 2015.

One of her most noted films was !Women Art Revolution 2011, and it has been screened by many major museums around the world. It was named by MoMA as one of the top documentaries of that year. This is definitely one to watch for all genders.

Interview with Lynn at the Walker Art Centre about the documentary ‘!Women Art Revolution’

This was a fascinating documentary that opened my eyes further to the struggles that women faced in the art world; from censorship by museums and art institutes, condemnation by art critics, ignored by male contemporaries and even to government restrictions on female art submissions. It was also a great introduction to the many great female artist that came before that I would never have known about.

One of the statements that made me consider my own art was by artist Sheila Leurat de Bretteville on the Women’s Liberation Movement particularly in the arts was;

‘We should have identified with those who had similar issues with regards to economic and social oppression rather than simply focusing on those who were the dominant oppressors alone.’ Sheila believes that that was a wasted opportunity.


RAW/WAR is a global digital community that came from the making of this movie. It is a platform for female artists to share and archive an uncensored collection of their work to be shared and preserved intact for future generations.

“Using new technologies, current and future generations can create their own histories, breaking the cycle of omission and erasure.”

Follow the link to view RAW/WAR

More Movies By Lynn

Other works of Lynn’s that I felt compelled to was “Roberta in Second Life”2006 – 2008. Lynn’s alter ego Roberta Breitmore started out in the mid 70s as a series of sculpurual self portraits then on to become digital avatars from the 80s onwards. Roberta joined the virtual world in 2006 onwards. In these world the character is confined to stereotypes of the real world.

Stereotyped in Second Life according to racial and gender clichés such as the clearly white-skinned and ‘middle-class boy and girl next door’ available to non-paying participants on the website, avatars are constrained by old-fashioned and dangerous beliefs. Second Life reifies, albeit in apparently new form, the tendency to fix those we engage with as, for example, either male or female, as black or white or brown, working still from the assumption that we know what all these labels mean. – Frieze Magazine Issue 117 Sept 2008

A lot of Lynn’s work seems to be about wearing masks, conformity and social paradigms.

‘Enacting a perpetual process of virtual becoming, Hershman stages the self as both simulacral and embodied’    – Frieze Magazine Issue 117 Sept 2008

I remember when these virtual world started to become ‘a thing’. I was really interested how people were becoming so immersed in these worlds so as to forget their real life responsibilities. Some people had become so confused with what was real or fake that they gave up their real live relationships to engage with their online ones. I remember reading books and watching movies when I was younger about humans being hooked up to machines and working and playing in virtual worlds (Neuromancer, 1984 – William Gibson and The Matrix) and being both uneasy and attracted by the idea.  After all mine was not the childhood of computers. Buttons were on devices you generally were not allowed to touch. However if you asked a young person today (bearing in mind that their world had been filled with immersive technology almost since birth) would they be prepared to give up the real world for a plug in virtual world, the trees, the sky, people? ……what do you think they would say? Well I did ask my teenage son that same question. He said that he would be concerned about his real body being left unprotected and that he might starve. I gave him a scenario – you would be in a locked room, protected from unauthorised access and you would be fed through a tube. There would be no pain from the plugged in device. – His reply….Hell Yeah! That would be awesome, you could do whatever you wanted and have ultimate power. His response worried me, as I have always tried to instil in my children the love of the natural world. Maybe I should do a survey and ask more teenagers the same question. Maybe ask other questions too?


Agent Ruby – 1998 – 2002 

Agent Ruby (Seductive Chat Bot) is and online programme that talks seductively to real people. This is an example of why immersive entertainment technology could be potentially bad. People sometimes find it difficult differentiating between reality and fantasy and can get caught up in their own imagination. A lot of these programmes are learning from the Internet how to respond to our needs. This could have its positive too, offering us suggestions that match our personality, however this for now only seems to benefit a consumer driven world. The interesting thing is how players seem to try to bring the virtual into the real and then back again.

“How as physical beings are reaching through screens to bring back what they find into the physical world” – Lynne Hershman Leeson

On art and technology

“The revolution is a technological one, one can now affect elections and dynamic changes using the possibilities of ‘New Media’ to convey your work, by expanding your audience and having your message seen in a more dynamic way if appropriate to the work.” – Lynn Hershman Leeson at the screening of !Women Art Revolution at the Walker Art Centre, Minneapolis Dec 2011


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