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Are Our Eyes Targets?
Solo Exhibition Julia Stoschek Foundation, Dusseldorf, Germany
Date: 04.11, 2024 - 02.02, 2025

Artists: Lynn Hershman Leeson 林恩·赫舍曼·利森

OPENING
9 April 2024, 6–10 p.m.

ARTIST TALK
9 April 2024, 6:30 p.m.

Are Our Eyes Targets? is the first solo exhibition by renowned artist and media pioneer Lynn Hershman Leeson in Düsseldorf. The exhibition, which is centered around the epic six-channel video installation The Electronic Diaries of Lynn Hershman Leeson 1984–2019, examines constructs of truth through self-reflection and the mediated image. In addition, the exhibition brings together interactive or mixed-media installations as well as photographs that further intensify our awareness of the violence of our own gaze. What does it mean to look at something or someone and be watched in return?

2024 marks the fortieth anniversary of The Electronic Diaries, which the artist started recording on a borrowed video camera in 1984 as a way of regaining control of her life story. Set against the backdrop of global politics, Hershman Leeson examined her personal experiences of abuse and illness and the relationship between technology and self. Jumping between time frames and perspectives, viewers encounter the evolution of multiple and sometimes contradictory personas representing the artist, which ultimately lead us to question how much of what we see on our screens is true. In doing so, she reveals the gap between reality and the mediated image. “We’ve become a society of screens, of different layers that keep us from knowing the truth,” Hershman Leeson says in the diaries. “That the truth is almost unbearable and too much for us to deal with. Just like our feelings. So, we deal with things through replication, through copying, through screens, through simulation, through facsimiles, and through fiction and faction.” Read against the contemporary media landscape, these words ring truer than ever.

The initial Electronic Diaries unfolded over the course of twelve years, ending in 1997. Across six projection screens that use the architectural glass walls of the exhibition space as mirrors, The Electronic Diaries of Lynn Hershman Leeson 1984–2019 is an updated version that recontextualizes her story more than two decades after its completion. In addition to the six-channel video installation, the exhibition features the mixed-media installation Paranoid (1968–2022) from the Breathing Machine series, a selection of seven Phantom Limb photo collages, the interactive installation CyberRoberta (1996), the print Are Our Eyes Targets? (1984), and two videos: Seduction of a Cyborg (1994) and Shadow Stalker (2018–2021). The first video offers a poetic metaphor about the invasion of technology into the body, and the latter takes a closer look at the creation of digital identities, and how the state invades our privacy through programs like predictive policing.

Together, these works examine the reciprocal effects of looking and being seen or watched—in person, through the lens of a camera, or in virtual spaces—revealing the voyeuristic desires and violence of the Western gaze. Yet, Hershman Leeson’s novel use of technology, psychological analysis, and play with identities both on and off screen suggests a power shift whereby the gaze is directed back at the viewer.

Hershman Leeson’s practice straddles decades of technological and aesthetic, social, and political development. Since the 1960s, Hershman Leeson has shaped artistic discourses on identity and performance, interactivity, cyborgs, surveillance, artificial intelligence, and biogenetics, paving a path for many generations to follow. She has worked with the most significant scientists of our time, bringing art into a complex dialogue with science. As a professor and critic, Leeson has written extensively on art, media, and politics. Between 1974 and 1978, Hershman Leeson commissioned over 300 artists to present artworks in public spaces as part of The Floating Museum, which she founded to support
artists who weren’t able to exhibit within institutional structures. In tandem with artmaking, Hershman Leeson has written and directed six feature films and documentaries, a selection of which will be shown as part of the public program accompanying the exhibition. The screenings at JSF Düssedorf include Conceiving Ada (1998), Teknolust (2002), !Women Art Revolution (2010), and Tania Libre (2017), among others.

The exhibition “Lynn Hershman Leeson – Are Our Eyes Targets?” is curated by Lisa Long, Artistic Director of the Julia Stochek Foundation, with the support of Line Ajan, Assistant Curator.

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