Selected Works, 1974-2005

A rare New York solo exhibition by one of the most influential new media artists, featuring three decades of seminal work and the New York premiere of the interactive artificial intelligence robot, DiNA

“Ms. Hershman, a veteran cyber artist, blurs the line between the science and science fiction of artificial intelligence, to thought-provoking and slightly unnerving effect.”

San Francisco-based artist and filmmaker Lynn Hershman Leeson, recently dubbed “the grande dame of digital art” (Pierre Restany, Domus magazine), returns to bitforms gallery for a rare New York solo exhibition encompassing 30 years of her groundbreaking work. One of the most influential artists working in new media today, Hershman Leeson has been internationally acclaimed for her pioneering use of new technologies and her investigations of issues that are now recognized as key to the working of our society: identity in a time of consumerism, privacy in a era of surveillance, interfacing of humans and machines, and the relationship between real and virtual worlds. The exhibition will offer a unique opportunity to experience some of her enigmatic and provocative fictional personas and agents.” On view are a dozen photographic and digital prints from 1974 to 2005, and Hershman Leeson’s latest interactive artificial intelligence robot, DiNA (2004-2005), embodied by the face of actress Tilda Swinton and shown for the first time in New York.

With a body of work that includes early conceptual and performance pieces, photographs, collage montages, videos, films, multimedia installations, and most recently artificial intelligence robotic works, Hershman Leeson has established herself at the forefront of artistic practices in new media. In addition to her New York exhibition and a touring 30-year retrospective organized by the Henry Art Gallery (Seattle, November 5-January 29), the fall of 2005 will see the publication of The Art and Films of Lynn Hershman Leeson, Secret Agent, Private I (University of California Press)—the first major survey of Hershman Leeson’s contributions to contemporary art, feminism and emerging technologies, including essays by leading critics and a DVD. Earlier this year, Stanford University Libraries acquired Hershman Leeson’s archive from 1966 to 2002 (along with that of Alan Ginsberg and Buckminster Fuller).

For her exhibition at bitforms gallery, New York, Hershman Leeson will present her latest artificial intelligence bot, DiNA, now at its most advanced stage—wireless, and endowed with speech recognition. Shown on an LCD flat screen, DiNA is a virtual presidential candidate with a brain as big as the Internet, and growing smarter as it processes information. It has the face of Tilda Swinton, manipulated by cutting-edge animation software, and the campaign slogan, “Artificial Intelligence is Better than No Intelligence,” inviting users to directly interact with it in real time on any pertinent issue in the world. “Hershman Leeson is among the first artists to fuse artificial intelligence with a “virtual persona” connected to the Web,” says Margo A. Crutchfield (senior Curator, Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland). “With this extraordinary work, [she] succeeds in incorporating advanced technologies to create a completely new art form, one that explores artificial intelligence and its interface with humans.”

The exhibition will also offer a rare glimpse at some of Hershman Leeson’s multiple “alter egos” over the last three decades. It features the 1974 vintage dye transfer print, Roberta Construction Chart #1—Hershman Leeson’s first fictionalized character, which she revisits in her 2005 digital print, Reconstructing Roberta, now portrayed in her 60s. It also includes photographic prints and a collage montage created before the invention of Photoshop from the striking Phantom Limbs series (1986-1994), merging human bodies with reproductive technologies; digital prints from her Cyborg project, fusing genetically encoded human anatomy and the programmed structure of artificial intelligence; and digital film stills from her two award-winning films, both starring Tilda Swinton: Teknolust (2001) exploring cyber identity and cloning, and Conceiving Ada (1997), the story of Ada Byron King, the brilliant woman mathematician credited with writing the first computer program.

“Artificial life, genetics, nanotechnology, robotics, age retardation and the growing obsolescence of death have enormous social and moral implications. My sense is that newly formed digital identities will be autonomous and unpredictable, with minds of their own, just like the best of us corporeal beings. Our task is to make friends with them. The political as well as psychic stakes of what they represent and how they relate to who we are, are urgent, compelling, and inescapable.” – Lynn Hershman Leeson

The opening reception is scheduled for Saturday, December 10 from 6-8pm. The artist will be present at the reception, and will sign copies of her The Art and Films of Lynn Hershman Leeson, Secrete Agents, Private I (University of California Press).

Lynn Hershman Leeson’s work is featured in the public collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the William Lehmbruch Museum, the ZKM (Zentrum fur Kunst und Medientechnologie), the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the National Gallery of Canada, the Walker Art Center and the University Art Museum, Berkeley, in addition to the celebrated private collections of Donald Hess and Arturo Schwarz, among many others. She is the recipient of the Siemens International Media Arts Award (with Jean Baudrillard and Peter Greenway), the Flintridge Foundation Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Visual Arts, the Prix Ars Electronica, and most recently, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Feature Film for writing and directing Teknolust.

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