Karen Archey on Lynn Hershman Leeson
Apr 15, 2018
Waldburger Wouters
Karen Archey

Maria, the evil, working class, communist cyborg, has long been a key influence for the artist Lynn Hershman Leeson, whose artwork has for decades explored the relationship between the body, both human and non-human, and technology. Born in 1941 in Cleveland, Ohio, Hershman Leeson is a pioneering artist working in media art, film, and biotechnology. Inspired by the Frankensteinian Maria, her work considers notions of aliveness in series such as her 1960s-era Breathing Machines, entombed, seemingly half-alive funereal masks that make breathing sounds as a viewer approaches. Inspired by Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage’s Infinity Engine proto-computer—which Lovelace originally created to write poetry—are Hershman Leeson’s mid-1990s Dollie Clones: two telerobotic dolls that feed live images of their surroundings online (a hard-won technological feat for the era). The evil, Maria-inspired of the two actually pirates the feed of the other, in a proto-sci-fi twist of its own…