It is often said that artists are visionaries who show us a path towards the future, but very few artists fit this description as well as Lynn Hershman Leeson.

A fearless pioneer whose performances were fueled by feminist indignation of the vulnerable position of women in American society, her work has been a harbinger of experiments in social practice, new media, interactive and net-based art decades before technology and digital culture would re-shape our experience of reality. Based in the Bay Area for her entire career, it has taken too long to bring attention to her complex practice. –Lucía Sanromán, YBCA Director of Visual Arts

Lynn Hershman Leeson: Civic Radar is the only presentation in the Americas of this acclaimed retrospective that provides an overview of the Bay Area artist’s revolutionary career from the 1960s to the present day. A pioneer of performance and conceptual art, Lynn Hershman Leeson has continually examined our relationship to technology. Her work reflects a fascination with the construction of identity and the use of media and technology as tools for empowerment against censorship and repression. Hershman Leeson has been, and continues to be, a strong voice in the feminist movement.

The presentation of Civic Radar at YBCA focuses on Hershman Leeson’s investigations of identity and the relationship between the viewer and various modes of surveillance, while also acknowledging her contributions to the field of performance and her commitment to socially engaged practices. The exhibition includes a significant portion of the long-term Roberta Breitmore performance project, along with many of her groundbreaking technological works, including Lorna (1984), Room of One’s Own (1993), and the film Teknolust (2002). Hershman Leeson’s recent work addresses the influence of digital culture on our most intimate selves, as well as the latest developments in regenerative medicine and genetics research, including 3D bioprinters that re-create human body parts. The exhibition will feature a new large-scale installation of Infinity Engine (2014), an interactive work first prototyped at YBCA in the 2013 exhibition Dissident Futures, that re-creates a functional genetics lab to generate infinite narratives about the future of the human species in the post–genetic engineering age.

Throughout the run of the exhibition YBCA will also present several of Hershman Leeson’s full-length feature films, including the sci-fi adventures Conceiving Ada (1997) and Teknolust (2002), starring Tilda Swinton; !Women Art Revolution (2010), a documentary about the feminist art movement, which fused free speech and politics into an art that radically transformed culture; and, finally, the premiere of a new documentary about Tania Bruguera, whose survey exhibition, organized by YBCA, will premiere at YBCA in June 2017.


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About the Artist

Portrait of Lynn Hershman Leeson by Lisa Blatt. Courtesy the artist.

Over the last five decades, artist and filmmaker Lynn Hershman Leeson has received international acclaim for her art and films. She is recognized for her innovative work investigating issues that are now recognized as key to the workings of society: the relationship between humans and technology, identity, surveillance, and the use of media as a tool of empowerment against censorship and political repression. She is considered one of the most influential media artists and has made pioneering contributions in photography, video, film, performance, installation, and interactive as well as net-based media art.

Her activist films on injustice within the art world and society at large have been praised worldwide. !Women Art Revolution! won first prize in the Montreal Festival for Films on Art and was hailed by the Museum of Modern Art as one of the three best documentaries of 2012. Holland Cotter of the New York Times called it “the most comprehensive documentary ever made on the feminist art movement.” Her 2009 film Strange Culture—which the New York Times deemed “the perfect balance of form and content” and The Nation called “a brilliant and moving examination of fear and its manipulation”—resulted in the release of an artist facing a prison sentence of 23 years.


Lynn Hershman Leeson: Civic Radar is curated by Peter Weibel and Andreas Beitin, and organized by ZKM | Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe. The presentation at YBCA is organized by Lucía Sanromán, Director of Visual Arts, YBCA.

YBCA Exhibitions 2016–2017 are made possible, in part, by: Mike Wilkins and Sheila Duignan, Meridee Moore and Kevin King, and the Creative Ventures Council.

YBCA Programs 2016-2017 are made possible, in part, by: The James Irvine Foundation.

Additional Funding for YBCA Programs 2016–2017: National Endowment for the Arts, Adobe, Abundance Foundation, Gaia Fund, Grosvenor, and members of Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.

Free First Tuesdays underwritten by Directors Forum Members.

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts is grateful to the City of San Francisco for its ongoing support.

Lead Image: Seduction from the series Phantom Limb, 1985, b/w photograph. Courtesy Lynn Hershman Leeson represented by Anglim Gilbert Gallery, San Francisco; Waldburger Wouters Gallery, Brussels; Bridget Donahue Gallery, New York City; Vilma Gold Gallery, London.