Lynn Hershman Leeson premiers her the final film to close her acclaimed series “Electronic Diaries” (1984-2019) at The Shed. Photo By Brian Hester
Yesterday I had the opportunity to preview an exhibit, Manual Override, which opens today and runs through January 12, 2020 at The Shed. The experience was well worth the visit as it proved thought provoking and inspirational. First, a little about the venue, The Shed, and the location, if you plan on taking in this incredible group exhibition featuring work by Lynn Hershman Leeson, Morehshin Allyari, Simon Fujiwara, Sondra Perry, and Martine Syms.
The Shed, a beautiful brand new venue located where The High Line meets Hudson Yards, adjacent to New York’s hottest new attraction, The Vessel, is in and of itself worthy of a trip due to its amazing engineering capabilities with it’s telescoping outer shell that glides out from the base building over rails onto the to adjoining plaza to create a unique one of a kind performance space. The Shed is not only the name of the venue but of a non-profit cultural organization whose mission is to present original works of art, across all disciplines, for all audiences. Enough about the super cool new space.
With this exhibit, Manual Override, The Shed explores the impact of technology on our lives. Imagine if you will the old action style movies in which a machine goes haywire or a programming issues threatens humanity, think Matthew Broderick in the 1983 film War Games, then suddenly all is saved by a hero hitting an Manual Override button and suddenly the threat is neutralized, the wayward machine slowly grinds to a stop. The artists works here explore essential questions facing modern day society regarding the aspects of automated information gathering and the sheer speed, accuracy and vast volumes of data being collected, how it impacts our lives and most importantly can this increasingly automated system be stopped, is there any possibility of a Manual Override?
Lynn Hershman Leeson premiered the final film to close her acclaimed series “Electronic Diaries” (1984-2019). This piece was commissioned by The Shed for this project and this marks the first time that all five films are presented together. In this display each film runs simultaneously on screens lined thru the center of the collection, with a small bench in front of each screen. Hershman Leeson began this series back in in 1984 using then state of the art technology, the video camera, as a new medium for exploring the complex interplay between DNA editing, trauma, identity, and survival.
Morehshin Allahyari’s new work “She Who See the Unknown: Kabous, The Left Witness and The Right Witness” (2019) commissioned by The Shed features a Virtual Reality film, sculpture, and a bedroom installation. Upon entering a bedroom, modeled after the artist’s childhood room in Iran, a visitor will lay down in a daybed and put on a VR headset to view a film about Kabous, a jinn (an intelligent spirit common in pre-Islamic, Zoroastrian, and Islamic mythology) who brings nightmares and sleep paralysis to human bodies. Surrounding the bed are two 3-D printed sculptures of the “witnesses” of Kabous.
These first two works I came across as I entered the gallery space, described above, where certainly enough to pull me in an capture my attention. The next work I saw, Simon Fujiwara’s Empathy I totally challenged my perception of how far an artist could go in presentation. When you see an amusement park style warning posted on the wall prior to viewing you know you are in for something new and exciting. Simon Fujiwara developed an immersive simulator ride experience for two people, who experience a ride through the real world. I don’t want to give away too much on this piece as I highly recommend seeing for one’s self.
Jumping back over to acclaimed artist Lynn Hershman Leeson, visitors are treated to another new piece commissioned by The Shed for this collection entitled, Shadow Stalker. While all of the artists displayed deeply moving and thought provoking works here, this was my personal favorite with Sonya Perry’s piece running a very close second. With Shadow Stalker Hershman Leeson displays and questions how massive unavoidable collection of personal data is used to predetermine such things as employment options and crime areas. Further she examines the impact of flawed or biased data being inputted into such systems and how that may be an extension of a larger system designed to hold back certain groups.
As I mentioned my second favorite work in this collection, Sondra Perry’s new commission for The Shed is you out here look n like you don’t belong to nobody; heavy metal and reflective (2019). This piece features a film displayed from under water in a cauldron with a larger metal sculpture encased in a Plexiglas pyramid. The sculpture contains heavy metals from a wide range of areas, 18th century shackles, iron meteorite to metal from The Shed building itself. Something about the piece simply pulled me in and required deep examination. I was fortunate enough to meet the artist and her explanations of inspirations for her collection was as amazing as the piece itself. As a photographer I would highly recommend the sculpture as an incredible item to shoot.
The final work in the collection, another interactive piece, Martine Syms’ Shame Space (2018) center around an interactive video installation in which monitors appear inside a metal stud structure alongside acrylic panels printed with photographs. Visitors can interact with the protagonist, via an SMS chatbot programmed by the artist. There is a phone number prominently displayed all over this room and guests are encouraged to text to the number. Without wanting to give too much away and no wanting to post that number here as it may interfere with the artist designed intent, receiving interaction from those in the room, I have decided not to include any photos of this piece,
I would highly recommend taking in this collection and feel that The Shed and their first guest curator Nora N. Khan, have done a tremendous job putting together this group of artists and these works. Though provoking. Inspirational. Imaginative. Conversation starter. In addition to being able to view Manual Override visitors may also take in Agnes Denes: Absolutes and Intermediates, on display through March 22, 2020. There is a fantastic causal space for a beverage and food while at The Shed named Cedric’s. Perhaps a perfect Date Night? A great option for an evening of art and entertainment or maybe mixed in with to a weekend of taking in all the best that New York City has to offer. Tell them Broadway Brian sent you. Highly recommended!!!