Interview with Artist and Filmmaker Lynn Hershman Leeson, Laureate of the d.velop Digital Art Award 2010

Lynn Hershman Leeson is the winner of the 4th develop digital art award [ddaa] 2010/11, awarded by the Digital Art Museum [DAM] in Berlin, Germany. The international prize honors her lifetime achievement in the field of new media.

On the eve of the award ceremony in Berlin, VernissageTV met with Lynn Hershman Leeson and taped a conversation between the artist and the Director of the Digital Art Museum [DAM] and initiator of the [ddaa], Wolf Lieser at the [DAM] Gallery in Berlin.

In this interview, Lynn Hershman Leeson talks about the beginnings of her career as an artist and filmmaker, the reasons and motivations to use new media and technology, her project !WAR (!Woman Art Revolution) and today’s situation of women in the art market, the presentation and recognition of digital media in the art scene, and her plans for the near future.

Lynn Hershman Leeson in conversation with Wolf Lieser, DAM Berlin, Germany, October 8, 2010.

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Complete interview (14:49 min.):

More info from the press release:

Lynn Hershman Leeson (* 1941) utilizes new media since the 1970s as a cutting-edge artist. She has been devoted to social issues of contemporary society: protection of privacy, gender role, the changing concept of identity in the the age of virtualty. Very often, she acts as a storyteller in a non-linear way by showing the loneliness of people in a world of mass communication systems. She works with an alter ego, puppets and agents and includes artificial intelligence. As a pioneer of interactive work her oeuvre includes performance, film, photography, site-specific installations and digital media.

One of Hershman Leeson’s most notorious projects includes Roberta Breitmore, a fictional persona, created and enacted by the artist from 1973 – 79, and which anticipated virtual avatars. Hershman Leeson has been responsible for a number of technological innovations, including the first interactive computer-based artwork with Lorna (1983-84) and the artificial intelligent web agent DiNa (2006).

Her three feature films with Tilda Swinton – Conceiving Ada (1997), the first movie to use virtual sets; Teknolust (2002); and Strange Culture (2007) – were shown at the Sundance Film Festival, Toronto International Film Festival, and Berlin International Film Festival, and won numerous awards. Hershman Leeson has just completed !Women Art Revolution, a feature-length documentary to be released next year.

Hershman Leeson’s work is featured in the public collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the William Lehmbruck Museum, Duisburg, the ZKM (Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe), The Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester, The Tate, London, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the National Gallery in Canada, the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis and The Hess Collection, California, among others.

Most recently, Hershman Leeson received the 2009 SIGGRAPH Lifetime Achievement Award and a 2009 Guggenheim Fellowship. She is also the recipient of grants from The National Endowment for the Arts, Creative Capital Foundation, the Siemens Media Art Prize, ZKM, the Flintridge Foundation Award, the Prix Ars Electronica and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. In 2004, Stanford University acquired the artists working archive.

Lynn Hershman Leeson is Chair of the Film Department at the San Francisco Art Institute and Emeritus Professor at the University of California, Davis. She lives and works in San Francisco.

Lynn Hersman Leeson was nominated by Laura Sillars of FACT, Liverpool. Further nominees were Roy Ascott (nominated by Rudolf Frieling, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art), Hiroshi Kawano (nominated by Yoshiyuki Abe, pioneer of computer art from Japan), Lillian F. Schwartz (nominated by Barbara London (Museum of Modern Art in New York) and Roman Verostko (nominated by Douglas Dodds, Victoria & Albert Museum in London).

Initiated in 2005 by Wolf Lieser of the Digital Art Museum [DAM], the d.velop digital art award [ddaa] is assigned in close partnership with Kunsthalle Bremen, and is possible through the sponsoring of d.velop AG in Gescher, the Hauptpharma AG in Berlin as well as by the agency kommunikation lohnzich in Munster, Germany.