Spotlight Series

Spotlight: Art Practical

What’s summer without a series? Over the next few months, Daily Serving is shining a light on some arts publications that we admire. We’re excited to partner with publications such as C&, Chicago Artist Writers, MOMUS, and others, and will highlight the best writing from a different site each week. This week, we’re proud to shine our light on some recent work at our sister site, Art Practical. Today we bring you Genevieve Quick’s review of Lynn Hershman Leeson’s retrospective at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco. Quick draws a narrative line through the artist’s representation of cyborgs and her radical approach to feminist art and technology, and points to where this trajectory leads a contemporary audience. This article was originally published on April 20, 2017.

Lynn Hershman Leeson. DiNA, 2004; installation view, Lynn Hershman Leeson: Civic Radar, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco, 2017. Courtesy Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. Photo: Charlie Villyard.

Lynn Hershman Leeson. DiNA, 2004; installation view, Lynn Hershman Leeson: Civic Radar, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco, 2017. Courtesy of Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. Photo: Charlie Villyard.

As a collective humanity we make technologies into which we implicitly and explicitly embed our ideologies. Cybernetic organisms (or cyborgs) not only simulate our appearance and capabilities, but reflect the underlying ideologies of who we are, and what we hope for, or fear. As artist Lynn Hershman Leeson used her seminal character Roberta Breitmore to imaginatively explore the personae of an alias, her work with female cyborgs and Artificial Intelligence (AI) also probes the ways we mirror ourselves. The prolific artist’s decade-long explorations in technology and gender are displayed in her rousing solo exhibition at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Civic Radar. Hershman Leeson’s female cyborgs and AI projects explore seduction, the performance of gender, and the tantalizing idea of creating new life-forms and reproducing ourselves, touching on the utopic and dystopic scenarios inherent in both. As the artist’s speculations mine the gender dynamic of female cyborgs, she invites viewers to take leaps of imagination when considering the believability, cognition, and emotional potential of cyborgs, while exploring how they reflect our identities, anxieties, and aspirations.

In Phantom Limbs (1985–ongoing), a series of black-and-white photo collages, the artist hybridizes her body with cameras, screens, mirrors, binoculars, and more—technologies and objects for looking, recording, and display. Through titling this body of work Phantom Limbs, the artist speaks of a spectral body, where an amputation patient may feel pain or sensation in the area of loss. Through being neurologically-rooted, this concept reveals the mind’s capacity to override the body. As a media artist, Hershman Leeson has an intimate relationship with visual apparatuses, which through habitual use may be an extension of her own body such that their absence may cause trauma. With the loss or concealment of her head in the works, the central location for our being and identity, the artist also critiques the ways that images replace the individuality of women in mass media, in this case presented as cyborgs.

Read the full article here.

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