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Lynn Hershman Leeson, Civic Radar

Clocktower correspondent Mia Wendel-DiLallo sits down with media artist Lynn Hershman Leeson to discuss 3D printing of body parts, genetic engineering, surveillance, and feminism on the occasion of the release of the first comprehensive monograph of Hershman Leeson's work, entitled Civic Radar.

Published by Hatje Cantz Verla and edited by Peter Weibel, Civic Radar is a companion to Hershman Leeson’s retrospective curated and presented by ZKM | Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe, in Germany (December 13, 2014 – April 6, 2015). It features various perspectives on Hershman Leeson's body of work from renowned authors such as Peter Weibel and Andreas Beitin (curators of the retrospective), Pamela M. Lee, Peggy Phelan, Ingeborg Reichle, B. Ruby Rich, Jeffrey T. Schnapp, Kyle Stephan, Kristine Stiles, and Tilda Swinton, interviews with the artist by Hou Hanru, and Laura Poitras, and a conversation between Hershman Leeson and Nam June Paik. The publication spans five decades of Hershman Leeson's groundbreaking contributions to the fields of photography, video, film, performance, installation, as well as interactive and net-based media art. It offers an entirely new overview of the different creative phases of the artist’s oeuvre, and includes key artworks, from rare and unpublished works to her most recent projects, such as life in the age of genetic engineering.

Long before the digital revolution and virtualization of identities became part of our everyday lives, Hershman Leeson created surrogate personas and investigated key issues such as surveillance, identity politics, interfacing of humans and technology, the relationship between real and virtual worlds, and media as a tool to counter censorship and repression. From the outset, her work has emphasized audience engagement, exploring the democratic power of interactivity and participation as a mirror to psychological mechanisms and social structures. Civic Radar brings forth the breadth of the artist’s inquiries across artistic fields, and her prophetic concerns as she creates art in response to the media of her time.