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Lynn Hershman Leeson: Drawing Breath | Art21 "Extended Play"

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    Drawing for me is a sort of meditation.
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    Everything begins and ends with the drawing.
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    Whenever I do a project, I draw it out.
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    So it's kind of a basic language,
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    and then I do some things in between.
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    It's all about collaging.
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    A lot of what I do as being an artist
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    is creating a voice for myself
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    because I didn't have one for so long.
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    In 1965, I got pregnant.
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    In the fifth month of my pregnancy,
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    I was having trouble breathing
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    and came down with a heart condition
    called cardiomyopathy.
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    I went into heart failure.
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    I was under an oxygen tent during that pregnancy,
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    in a hospital.
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    I was unable to walk
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    or to do anything for many, many months.
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    When you are experiencing the threat of death,
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    you become so aware of time.
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    That's really a gift,
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    to become so sick early in my life.
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    It made you value the time you had
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    and the fact that you can't really waste time.
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    Because so much of my illness
    depended on breathing,
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    I added the sound as it was getting better
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    to a couple of my wax sculptures.
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    [PLAYBACK OF RECORDED BREATHING SOUNDS]
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    [VOICE FROM CASSETTE PLAYER]
    --Oh, there you are.
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    --I've been waiting for you all day.
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    --I'm so glad that you've come to see me.
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    --What's your name?
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    I took a night class at UCLA
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    on how you cast wax.
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    Since I didn't have anybody else around,
    I cast my face
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    and made the wax cast from myself.
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    When you're so isolated, you hear more.
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    [RECORDED BREATHING SOUNDS]
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    After my breath itself, I added interaction
    and dialogue.
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    To me, it was sort of like a drawing.
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    It was sound that extended into space.
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    So that became part of the work.
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    In the seventies,
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    women artists were just becoming aware of
    how they were made invisible.
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    The early challenges were getting somebody
    to show my work.
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    Nobody would.
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    Eventually,
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    the University of California at Berkeley invited
    three women to have exhibitions
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    and I was one of them.
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    But they wanted to show only my drawings.
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    I think they thought that drawings were safe
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    and good draftsmanship and all of that.
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    But along with that,
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    I put in a couple of my wax sculptures
    that talked.
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    Within two days, the museum closed the show.
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    They said, "Media isn't art."
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    "Sound isn't art."
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    And they completely closed
    the exhibition down.
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    Being rejected and being made invisible by
    the museum system
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    was really the best thing
    that happened to me.
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    The cultural experience of
    having your voice suppressed
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    has made speech, and talking,
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    and having a voice,
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    really important in what I do.
Title:
Lynn Hershman Leeson: Drawing Breath | Art21 "Extended Play"
Description:

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Video Language:
English
Team:
Art21
Project:
"Extended Play" series
Duration:
04:22

English subtitles

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