Commissioned by The Shed
This work was made possible by funds from The Shed, VIA Art Fund and Hotwire Productions LLC
Shadow Stalker, 2018-2021
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.”
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 here.)
- 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 currently on show at The de Young Museum, from February 22 – October 25, 2020, as part of the Uncanny Valley exhibition. Find more details here. Read an article about the exhibition here:
April 9, 2020 Art in America
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
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
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.”
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
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
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.