Lynn Hershman Leeson, Still from Desire Inc., 1988. Courtesy and copyright by Hotwire Productions, LLC.

Lynn Hershman Leeson

Desire, Inc.

On View: May 15-June 16

The Video Viewing Room series presents recent video works and archival recordings. This online initiative revives The Kitchen's longstanding Video Viewing Room—a dedicated space within our buildings from 1975 through the early 1990s.

This Video Viewing Room features four videos selected in collaboration with the artist and broadcast together for the first time: Commercials for "Forming a Sculpture Drama in Manhattan" (1974), A Commercial for Myself (1978), Test Patterns (1979), and Desire, Inc. (1990) by Lynn Hershman Leeson, an artist widely recognized for her innovative work investigating the relationship between humans and technology, identity, surveillance, and the use of media as a tool of empowerment against censorship and political repression.

Lynn Hershman Leeson: Desire, Inc. is organized by Robyn Farrell, Senior Curator.

“Short yet intense, commercials have become the electronic haiku. Anthropological teasers that reveal our cultist anxieties.”

-Lynn Hershman Leeson, 1978 (1)

Since the 1960s Lynn Hershman Leeson has addressed issues of identity construction and the conflicting complexities of a culture entrenched in and obsessed with technology and artifice. This literacy in the human condition, data, and technology, as well as our relationship to it, has been a hallmark of the artist’s extraordinary body of work. Her innovative and in-depth investigations span the fields of art, science, and technology, engaging formats that range from sound and performance to photography and bio- and net-based art. The Kitchen celebrates the pioneering practice of Hershman Leeson, who presented work at The Kitchen as part of the exhibition New Works, First Runs in 1990, hosted The Kitchen’s TV Dinner event series in February 1999 (2) , and is a 2024 Gala Honoree. This Video Viewing Room explores the artist’s radical engagement with television and her viewing audience, presenting four distinct works from across her five-decade career. These commercial shorts model Hershman Leeson’s keen grasp of the conceptual, emotional, and physical reach of broadcast media and are available to view On Screen through June 16, 2024.

An interview between the artist and The Kitchen’s Senior Curator Robyn Farrell is featured on office Magazine.

Lynn Hershman Leeson, Commercials for Forming a Sculpture Drama in Manhattan (1974)

Hershman Leeson conceived of these four commercial spots to promote her site-specific installations of Forming a Sculpture Drama in Manhattan at the Chelsea and Plaza Hotels. They were broadcast on ABC in New York in October 1974; these commercials advertise the time and location of site-specific hotel installations of Forming a Sculpture Drama in Manhattan via male and female surrogates posting as the artist.

Lynn Hershman Leeson, Commercial for Myself (1979)

In this commercial, the artist plays with the traditional mode of the television interview by presenting herself as a spokesperson for herself. This 60 second short “portrait” was broadcasted on public television.

Lynn Hershman Leeson, Test Patterns (1979)

Test Patterns further subverts the genre of interview and television documentary in what Hershman Leeson describes as a “factional docudrama.” In this work, a man bears the likeness of the television test pattern personifying television media while recounting his memories of the assassination of John F. Kennedy–shown alongside footage of a reenactment–and musings of banal television content he encountered that day.

Lynn Hershman Leeson, Desire Inc (1990)

In a compilation of 30-second commercials, Hershman Leeson critically formed a mediation of loneliness and erotic desire through television broadcast on PBS. Mimicking phone-sex ads, most of the TV spots featured an attractive woman enticing the audience to call her (via the artist’s actual phone number) while the final work in the series shifts to focus on cultural topics. Viewers who did reply were interviewed about their desire to connect with a stranger.


Lynn Hershman Leeson has been internationally acclaimed for her art and films. Hershman Leeson is widely recognized for her innovative work investigating issues including: the relationship between humans and technology, identity, surveillance, and the use of media as a tool of empowerment against censorship and political repression. Hershman Leeson is a recipient of many awards including a Siggraph Lifetime Achievement Award, Prix Ars Electronica Golden Nica, and a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship. And in 2022, she was awarded a special mention from the Jury for her participation in the 59th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia. In 2023, Pratt Institute of Art in NY awarded her with an Honorary Doctorate. Creative Capital awarded her with their Distinguished Artist Award in 2023. SFMOMA acquired the museum’s first NFT from Hershman Leeson in 2023. Her six feature films—Strange Culture, Teknolust, Conceiving Ada, !Women Art Revolution: A Secret History, Tania Libre, and The Electronic Diaries—are in worldwide distribution. Artwork by Lynn Hershman Leeson is featured in many public collections including the Museum of Modern Art, and The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

All works are courtesy the artist and Bridget Donahue, NYC and Altman Siegel, San Francisco.

  1. Lynn Hershman Leeson, “Reflections on the Electric Mirror,” in Battcock, Gregory, (ed.), New Artists Video: A Critical Anthology, New York: Dutton, p.39

  2. Mack Somers covered this shared history in the 2020 “From the Archives” essay for The Kitchen’s online magazine.

Video Viewing Room was initiated with the support of the NYC COVID-19 Response and Impact Fund in The New York Community Trust; annual grants from Lambent Foundation Fund of Tides Foundation and Howard Gilman Foundation; and in part by public funds from New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council and New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.