The projector seemed to be working. The fan was definitely whirring but no light was coming from the lens. In any case, I had seen the picture on Gallery Paule Anglim’s website and read some articles online about Lynn Hershman Leeson’s Found Objects, so I knew how it was supposed to come together. A reclining sex doll, partly draped by a sheet, cobbled together from parts individually selected by the artist and ordered by mail, upon which the foreground figure from Manet’s Olympia is projected. Ultimately it didn’t matter, because if there is one message that is unavoidable here, it is that I am the projector.
The choice of Manet’s work of course reminds the viewer that that painting was a response to another, Titian’s Venus of Urbino. Goddess was succeeded by prostitute, one idealized image replaced another (yet the successor was considered so “real” as to be shocking to its contemporary audience). Leeson’s piece, incorporating and commenting upon its predecessors, is a series of fictions layered one on top of another. The Frankenstein-like assemblage of pieces, the acquisition of which would normally be according to the purchaser’s specifications of personal sexual fantasy, underscores the strain put on the term “representation” when applied to something that never was. The projector is the element that I think really makes the work strong: the literalization of an invisible process.
It is easy to cry alarm whenever such issues seem writ large because of some new technological development. Women have been idealized in pin-ups and pulp magazine covers, comic books and album covers and their depictions emphasize the features that the artist finds most alluring, no matter how unlikely. But perhaps new technologies, simply by virtue of their newness, make one contemplate their implications more readily, even if the elements and issues have been around forever in analog form. So I left Found Objects with my head whirling with thoughts about CGI, with the creation of likenesses which have no real world counterparts. The character Aki Ross from the film Final Fantasy came to mind, as well as every new iteration of Lara Croft from the Tomb Raider video game series, much ado made of the latter when in a recent release the developers decreased her virtual breast size. Terms like “facial capture” and “motion capture” begin to take on a sinister undertone, when considered in light of the care that Leeson has gone to in emphasizing the selection of body parts as individual objects removed from association with a whole.
The digital prints that accompany the installation depict the doll being crated up for transport, blanketed by a sheet of protective plastic. Leeson has positioned it in each case to fullest effect. It is disturbing how the unchanging expression, depending on the camera angle and context, can suggest alarm in one case while in another it appears to be indignant and voicing an objection. In Found Object: Wrapped, 2008 the plastic becomes a burial shroud, the eyes cadaverous.