Lynn Hershman: Pay No Attention to The Man Behind the Curtain

Lynn Hershman is a revolutionary in her field.  She has been practicing art formally since 1963.  She received a Master of Fine Arts degree in 1972 from San Francisco State University.  Hershman practices a wide variety of mediums, ranging from sculpture to painting to film to interactive installation work.  She is one of the first women to use digital media as a means of communication and be truly successful with it.  Even though her work is usually described as having feminist motivations, it seems to cover a broader scope than that.  She is interested in the changes society is facing with technology, and its interactions with technology.  Hershman then uses those observations, and constructs art with that very same technology.  She then channels that energy into a focus on female sexuality, female relationships, and women in technology.  These themes are universal however, and any person who interacts with any sort of technology can relate or appreciate the work.

Hershman’s Phantom Limb Series (1988-Present) is a series of photographs that truly embodies her ultimate theme and style.  They depict body parts of women, usually long sensual legs, attached to some sort of technology.  One is a torso and legs attached to a TV with only a close up of a face showing, called TV Legs (1990).  It is impossible to tell who the face on the screen belongs to.  Hershman is depicting life in a surveillance society.  No single person is an individual, but especially women.  Women are only valued for pieces of their body; who they are as people is of no concern in this image saturated world.  People who are always being watched transform from individuals to culprits, or just shadows.  No person watching bothers to comprehend that the people on screen have families, friends and a life.  Women are even more dehumanized, only their body parts are important and are seen as material possessions.  People own a TV, they also own those images on screen, including beautiful women.

Lynn Hershman is now printing in digital mediums, but many of her original prints were silver gelatin prints.  She uses the technology of the TV and camera to make these images digital media.  She can project whatever image she wants onto the TV and thus manipulates the response of her viewers.  If the TV projected an eye, it would convey a different meaning than if it projected a pair of lips.

Even though Hershman’s work is geared towards a feminist message, it is a universal message nonetheless.  Men and their image are also affected by technology, and how they see women is affected by technology.  We as a society are always watching each other, studying and judging each other.  Lynn Hershman merely points out what it does to us with subtlety.



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