Lynn Hershman Leeson

Shadow Stalker



Commissioned by The Shed

This work was made possible by funds from The Shed, VIA Art Fund and Hotwire Productions LLC

Agent Ruby ’s EDream Portal - 2002

Still from Shadow Stalker featuring January Steward as “The Spirit of the Deep Web,” 2019

“Algorithms are the titanium white of this era’s painting.  They are the undercoat that hide culture’s negative spaces.”

— Lynn Hershman Leeson

Shadow Stalker is a “live” interactive installation that uses algorithms, performance and projections to make visible private Internet systems like Predictive Policing that are increasingly used by law enforcement and promote racial profiling.

Shadow Stalker exists in three parts:

    • A film which outlines the history of Predictive Policing, Digital Identity Theft, and the dangers of Data Mining, featuring Tessa Thompson and “The Spirit of The Deep Web,” played by January Steward. (TRT: 10 minutes. Full credits list below.)
    • An installation which creates digital shadows of participants displaying personal information about them retrieved from internet databases with the use of just their email addresses. Programmed by Mark Hellar and Rachel Rose Ulgado.
    • A Predictive Policing website created by Francis Tseng that shows the percentage of predicted crimes by zip code. Link to the website here.

Shadow Stalker is the winner of a 2020 Prix Ars Electronica Award of Distinction.


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Reviews: Shadow Stalker at the de Young Museum

Shadow Stalker was on view at The de Young Museum, from February 22 – October 25, 2020, as part of the Uncanny Valley exhibition. Find more details here.


April 9, 2020 Art in America

‘Uncanny Valley’ Advocates a Sensual Understanding of Digital Life 

It is disturbing to witness the vulnerability of half-aware users willingly providing not only their data but also their bodies for imaging. The ease with which both types of  profiling are generated in real time provides a stark visualization of how we are all dangerously surveilled, demonstrating that our identities have already been replicated as diminished, ethereal versions.


February 25, 2020 KQED

Artists Mine Data and the Mostly Chilling Implications of AI in ‘Uncanny Valley’

Soliciting visitors’ email addresses, Hershman Leeson’s Shadow Stalker broadcasts what personal data can be gleaned from an internet search of that email, yielding current and former addresses, dates of birth, phone numbers and even, sometimes, credit scores. (Schmuckli assured me the museum isn’t keeping people’s email addresses on file, so at least there’s that.) Hershman Leeson further implicates her audience (their physical and “digital” shadows become part of a projected map) by linking this invasive search to the reality of predictive policing, which uses data about past arrests to identify “high-risk areas” and determine heightened surveillance of those spaces. The feedback loop is dizzying.


February 21, 2020 CNET

What it Means to be Human in the Age of AI 

Pictured inside a red digital square like the one PredPol puts on maps to indicate a likely crime zone, Thompson warns about complacency when it comes to data collection and online privacy. “The red square puts us inside of a coded prison,” she says. “The Red Square has also been a place of revolution. We decide which we will become: prisoners or revolutionaries.”

Reviews: Shadow Stalker at The Shed

Shadow Stalker was first exhibited in late 2019, as part of the Manual Override exhibition at The Shed, New York. See below for reviews of the exhibition and Lynn’s work, and watch a film about the development of the installation here.


November 8, 2019 New York Times

With ‘Shadow Stalker’, Lynn Hershman Leeson tackles internet surveillance

Ms. Hershman Leeson hopes to give visitors to the Shed a chilling sense of their own vulnerability to this kind of data-mining. When they enter the installation they’ll be asked to enter an email address, setting a simulation of the Predpol algorithm into motion, fetching biographical data — names of friends, loved ones, old addresses — that ultimately spits out a data shadow that appears behind them.


December 13, 2019 4 Columns

Manual Override, Police Algorithms, Art Molecules: a group exhibition interrogates technology and control.

Hershman Leeson’s Shadow Stalker, newly commissioned for this exhibition, has multiple components, all focused on the troubling use of digital algorithms by the police—including a film narrated by Tessa Thompson, star of the HBO reboot of Westworld, which explains how such methods often reinforce, rather than reduce, bias against people of color and the poor.

December 27, 2019 ARTnews

Lynn Hershman Leeson’s Shadow Stalker tells us about ourselves

At the Shed, viewers are invited to enter their email address, and Hershman Leeson’s algorithm fetches chilling results: old home addresses, the names and prior locations of loved ones. It’s a creepy work about the uneven power dynamics that guide the way we use digital technology—and an instructive one about the dangers of putting too much information into our beloved machines.


Written, Directed, Edited and Produced

Lynn Hershman Leeson


Tessa Thompson


Tessa Thompson

January Steward


Spirit of the Deep Web

Costume Designer

Nina Hollein


Hiro Narita ASC

Sound Mixer and Second Camera

Javid Soriano

Producer of Tessa Thompson Segment

George Rush

Co-producer, Hair and Makeup

Marine Bahet

Assistant Producer

Emma Scully


David Mong

Additional Editing

Collin Kriner

Erica Jordan

Compositing and Color Correction

Gary Coates

Sound Editing

Dan Olmsted

Background Score

Matthew Young

Wardrobe and Hair Assistant

Alexandra Phelps

Production Assistant

Theadora Walsh

Lor O’Connor

Set Photographer

Pamela Gentile

Studio Manager

Christopher ‘Doc’ Starks

Additional Graphics and Research

Theadora Walsh


Mark Hellar

Rachel Rose Ulgado

Production Attorney

George M Rush

Exhibition Design – Germen Estudio

Giacomo Castagnola

Cristobal Garcia

Lucía Sanromán

Lyrics include collaged terms derived from:

James Bridle

The New Dark Age, Technology and the End of the Future, Verso 2018

Simone Browne

Dark Matters: On the Surveillance of Blackness, Duke University Press 2015

Nora N. Khan

The Green Light, Brooklyn Rail, March 2019

Mimi Onuoha

On Algorithmic Violence, Github 2018

Safiya Umoja Noble 

Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism

New York University Press 2018

Jackie Wang

This is A Story About Nerds and Cops: Predpol-and-Algorithmic Policing, e-flux 2019

“A Wild Ass Beyond”

By Sondra Perry, Caitlin Cherry, Nora Khan, and American Artist

Performance Space NY December 2018

Shot in part at The Producer’s Loft, San Francisco

Very Special Thanks to

Nora N. Kahn

Thanks to

Bridget Donahue

Emma Enderby

Ed Gilbert

Alessandra Gomez

Johanna Gosse

Ashley Josephson

Erin Leland

George Leeson

Alex Poots

Heather Reyes

Christopher Roberts

Claudia Schmuckli

Agent Ruby ’s EDream Portal - 2002

Tessa Thompson and Lynn Hershman Leeson © Pamela Gentile

Agent Ruby installation, 1998–2002
DiNA, Artificial Intelligent Agent Installation, 2004
DiNA, Artificial Intelligent Agent Installation, 2004

Stills from Shadow Stalker, 2019