Lynn Hershman Leeson

No matter where I go, I always check if there is a photo exhibition on. I am currently in my old hometown, back in the Fazerland. Bremen is not really the centre of cultural buzzworks, but it always surprises me that there is something photographic on when I am home. Last year I was very lucky and got to see a gem of an exhibition – Elliott Erwitt’s images of dogs and their owners. A great exhibition, full of humour and esprit. (I cannot believe that I actually never wrote a review of it for 2picsaweek *tuttuttut*). This time ’round I am not quite so lucky. No big names are exhibiting in Bremen at the mo. Or so I thought…
Bremen – despite admittedly being slightly “provincial” – has a fantastic “Kunsthalle” (art gallery) which is well worth a visit, due to its extensive collection of impressionist paintings. (Against contemporary convention, the then director of the Kunsthalle, Gustav Pauli, showed foresight and knowledge when he assembled a large collection by Manet, Monet, Pissarro, van Gogh, Renoir, Degas and German impressionists, particularly those of the Worpswede school of impressionism.)
Initially I had planned to look at the current exhibition by Lynn Hershman Leeson, “Seducing Time”.
Well, to be blunt: I was not seduced by time. In fact, I thought that time was passing extraordinarily slowly – a sure sign that I was not enamoured or even interested by what I saw. But let’s be fair and describe what Leeson is showing in Bremen.
Leeson, b. 1941, is not exactly or specifically a photographer. The artist is more well-known for her pioneering intereactive and computer-based art. Nonetheless, a number of photography-based artworks are on show in Bremen. Her photographs kick off the exhibition – and personally they were my highlight of the Leeson expo. Her mid-1980s series “Phantom Limb” depicts women in various poses whose heads have been replaced by monitors, TV sets, cameras. A very obvious collage-trick and expression of media-critique. More evocative, however, was the series “Hero Sandwich” (also from the same creative period in the late 1980s) in which Leeson merges/overlays portraits of well-known artists, creating what we nowadays  know as “morphs”. Particularly the Bowie/Hepburn hero sandwich works so well, you have to look very hard to determine which half of the image is Hepburn and who is Bowie. Questions of gender identity, celebrity culture and media phenomenons are inherently addressed with these images – still topical after 25 years…
Apart from these images, however, I was not blown away by Leeson. This is probably due to the fact that performance art has never really convinced me. “Roberta Breitmore” is a social experiment in which she recreates an artifical person. I was simply creeped out by this persona, her (performed???) psycho therapy and her performances.
If this had been all I saw in the Kunsthalle, I would have been disappointed. Much to my surprise, the elusive “big names” suddenly cropped up in another part of the gallery. But that is a story for another day review.

Lynn Hershman Leeson
“Seducing Time”
June 2nd – August 16th 2012
“Carrier of Light” – relief by Bernhard Hötger

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