Acquisition Highlight: Lynn Hershman Leeson’s Deep Contact, 1984-1989


Digital & Electronic Art

Since the 1970s, Lynn Hershman Leeson has been a major voice of Cyberfeminism, a field of art that critiques the role of technology in the representation of women’s bodies and identities in our digital era. The first artwork to make use of touchscreens, Deep Contact implicates the viewer as an active participant in manipulating characters within the artwork. Emergent personal technologies such as video dating, video games and the desktop computer in the mid-1980s prompted the artist to respond with Deep Contact, which makes a statement about the ways electronic telecommunications alter the structure, speed and objectives of human desire.

The video narrative begins with a seduction: “Try to reach through the screen and touch me. Touch me! Try to press your way through the screen,” says Marion, knocking on the screen. The hostess Marion guides viewers through a navigable, choose-your-own-adventure-style journey through different scenes and characters such as a garden, a tavern and virtual TV stations. There is no clear end to the narrative. One meets a Zen master and a demon as representations of good and evil, as well as the artist playing herself. Touching different parts of Marion’s digital body leads you to different video chapters. There are seventy-one segments to choose, with a map on the nearby wall to help guide you.

Deep Contact is on view at Art House as part of the thematic installation Cyberbodies.