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Art, science, and technology converge for pioneering new media artist and filmmaker Lynn Hershman Leeson

October 3, 2016

Lynn Hershman Leeson
Lynn Hershman Leeson

Two exhibitions, a film screening, and an artist talk traverse the work and career of artist and filmmaker Lynn Hershman Leeson, who is recognized around the world for her groundbreaking examination of the relationship between humans and technology.

Known for her pioneering use of new technologies in the fields of photography, video, film, performance, installation, interactive art, and internet-based art, Hershman Leeson will discuss her life and career on Oct. 21, at 7:30 p.m. in the Anne and Ellen Fife Theatre, located within the Moss Arts Center’s Street and Davis Performance Hall at 190 Alumni Mall.

Hershman Leeson’s lecture serves as the keynote address for the 2016 Southeastern College Art Conference, the second largest organization of college and university art professors in the nation. Co-sponsored by Virginia Tech’s School of the Visual Arts and the Moss Arts Center, the talk is free and open to the public.

Hershman Leeson has explored and experimented with themes at the intersection of science, technology, and the human experience in her work. She was one of the first artists to use Videodisc – a precursor to DVD – in an interactive installation (“Lorna,” 1983-84), and the first to incorporate a touch screen interface into an artwork (“Deep Contact,” 1984-1989).

Her networked robotic art installation, “The Difference Engine #3” (1995-1998), and “Infinity Engine” (2013-2014), a genetics lab installation that explores identity in light of developments in regenerative medicine, bio-printing, and DNA programming, are just a few examples of how she has integrated the latest technologies and referenced current scientific developments in her art.  

“Hershman Leeson has consistently examined the relationship between humans and technology, focusing on the construction of identity, interactivity, artificial intelligence, voyeurism, surveillance, and the relationship of the real to the virtual,” said Margo Ann Crutchfield, Moss Arts Center curator-at-large and organizer of an exhibition of the artist’s work at the center. “A number of her works have revolved around invented personae, alter egos, or avatars as a means to probe identity and its increasingly fluid and mercurial manifestations. Core to her work in this conversation have been feminist issues, which more recently have expanded across gender lines to focus on what it means to be human in an increasingly cyberworld and era of genetic and bioengineering.”

Film screening

The Lyric Theatre is hosting a free screening of Hershman Leeson’s groundbreaking film, “!Women Art Revolution,” on Oct. 18, at 7 p.m. The film features interviews with artists, historians, curators, and critics, documenting one of the most significant art movements of the late 20th century — the recognition of female artists and the evolution of the feminist art movement. The event is co-sponsored by the School of Visual Arts, the Women’s Center at Virginia Tech, the Lyric Theatre, and the Moss Arts Center.

Exhibitions

The Moss Arts Center will feature Hershman Leeson’s work in its Ruth C. Horton Gallery from Oct. 20 to Dec. 10. This exhibition presents a succinct selection of the artist’s key photomontages and digital photo works along with one of her seminal interactive internet-based pieces, “Agent Ruby” (1999-2002).

She further examines the relationship between computer technology and the human experience in the “Cyborg” series of prints (2000-2001) and her 1996 video, “Seduction of a Cyborg,” which presents a future where women are seduced into “cyborg-hood” through manipulated computer chips. Several works in the exhibition address the challenges and complexities of human life in an increasingly bio- and genetically engineered world.

The Moss Arts Center’s galleries are regularly open Tuesday-Friday, 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m., and Saturday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.

Click through the photo gallery to see some of the work featured in the Moss Arts Center exhibition:

A related exhibition of Hershman Leeson’s work, “Body Collage,” will be on view at the School of Visual Arts’ Armory Gallery, located at 203 Draper Road in Blacksburg.  The exhibition opens with a reception on Oct. 18, at 6 p.m. and is followed by the Lyric Theatre showing of “!Women Art Revolution.”

“Body Collage” features, among other works, a bio-printed ear. This exhibition, as well as the Moss Arts Center show, pose provocative questions about identity, from its social construction of gender, its interactions with artificial intelligence, and the borders between the “self” and bioengineered extensions of the body in the context of what has been termed “post-human.”

The exhibition will be on view until Nov. 18. The Armory Gallery’s regular hours are Monday-Friday, 12 p.m.-4 p.m., and Saturday, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

Both exhibitions are free and open to the public.  

Leeson’s work has been featured in more than 200 exhibitions throughout the world, including a survey in 2012 at the Kunsthalle Bremen in Germany and a retrospective exhibition organized and presented by the Zentrum fur Kunst Und Medientechnologie (ZKM). Her work is in the collections of major museums, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota, as well as many private collections.

She is professor emerita at the University of California, Davis; chair of the San Francisco Art Institute Film Department; an A.D. White Professor at Cornell University; and visiting artist at the New School for Social Engagement in New York City.

If you are an individual with a disability and desire an accommodation, please contact Kacy McAllister at 540-231-5300 or email kmcallis@vt.edu during regular business hours at least 10 business days prior to an event.

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