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Lynn Hershman

Room of One's Own

Lynn Hershman, Room of One's Own, 1990-1993
Lynn Hershman, Room of One's Own, 1990-1993 Lynn Hershman, Room of One's Own, 1990-1993 Lynn Hershman, Room of One's Own, 1990-1993
Room of One's Own, which makes clear reference to the book by Virginia Woolf, is designed as a peep show. The viewer peers into a box through a tiny periscopic device and sees a bed, chair, telephone, clothes on the floor, and television. Once he or she has stepped on a carpet in front of the pedestal, the work is activated. A woman appears on a screen at the back of the small room and asks: "What are you doing here? Please look somewhere else!" Then, depending on where the viewer focuses, different videodisk segments appear on the back wall (there are 17 segments in all). The viewer is consistently positioned as a voyeur, yet any pleasure in voyeurism is frustrated in various ways. Finally, the viewer's own gaze is reflected back from the small television at the back of the room.

Discussing the work, Lynn Hershman wrote :

"In 1888, shortly after Etienne Jules Marey perfected a gun that substituted film for bullets, he was introduced to Thomas Alva Edison. One year later the kinetograph was invented. This device, an alliance between the phonograph and the photograph, was designed so that a single spectator could peep through an eyehole and see film loops (...). Known as the peep show, spectators took pleasure in the process of voyeuristically viewing seductive images of women. The gun/camera has had a direct relationship not only on this history of film and the eroticization of female imagery in photography and phonography, but also in pornography. (...) Women are taught to be looked at. In contemporary society this is interpreted as a manifestation of desire. Yet such objectifying observation triggers ideas of ownership and consumption. So with the association of gun to camera to trigger, the representation of women is linked quite literally to lethal weapons. If cinema is a social technology, then the captivity of woman as subject and subject-victim through this medium situates women into precoded identities. Their submissive position is implicated into the construction of fantasy, and is positioned (ob)scenely. I was thinking about these ideas when I was designing Room of One's Own . Therefore, these ideas can be considered the armature of this work." (1)

Jean Gagnon © 2000 FDL

(1) Lynn Hershman, "Room of One's Own: Slightly Behind the Scenes", in Iterations: The New Image (New York: Ed. Thimothy Druckrey, International Center of Photography, 1993): 150.