Lynn Hershman, Agent Ruby, 2001


Artist Bio

Lynn Hershman has worked in photography, video, installation, interactive, and Net-based works. Her 53 videos and seven interactive installations have won many international awards. In 1995, she was the first woman to receive a Tribute and Retrospective at the San Francisco International Film Festival, and in 1994, she was awarded (with director Peter Greenaway and theorist Jean Baudrillard) the Siemens Media Prize by the ZKM. In 1998, she was a Sundance Screenwriter Fellow and was honored with the Flintridge Foundation Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Visual Arts. In 1999 she received the Independent Spirit Award, and the prestigious Golden Nica Prix Ars Electronica.

In 2000, she received a Daniel Langlois Foundation Grant and a commission from ZDF/Arte for her new film, Teknolust, which premiered in the American Showcase section of the 2002 Sundance Film Festival.

Lynn Hershman, Agent Ruby (detail), 2001

Hershman's works are in numerous collections, including the Museum of Modern Art (NY), the National Gallery of Canada (Toronto), DG Bank (Frankfurt), the Walker Art Center (Minneapolis), The William Lehmbruch Museum (Duisburg), ZKM (Karlsruhe), The Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive (Berkeley), and the Hess Collection (Napa).

Hershman's first feature film, Conceiving Ada, starring Tilda Swinton, Karen Black, and Timothy Leary, was screened at the 1998 Sundance Film Festival, the Toronto International Film Festival, the Berlin International Film Festival, and the Montreal Festival of New Cinema. Conceiving Ada, for which pioneering digital processes were used to create virtual sets, was released by Fox Lorber in February 1999. The film received the award for "Outstanding Achievement in Drama" from the Festival of Electronic Cinema in Japan, the Iomega Award for "Technical Innovation," and the National Education Media Festival award for "Outstanding Technical Innovation."

The author of Clicking In, Hotlinks to a Digital Culture, published in 1996 by Bay Press, Hershman has published extensively. A monograph of her work will be published by the University of California Press, Berkeley, in 2002.

Artist Statement

This document, written in January 1999, outlines the concept for SRA's (Self Replicating AutomatonsTM) as developed in Teknolust, a feature film completed in 2001, and Agent Ruby, a work released online in spring 2002.

Logistic for Self Replicating AutomatonsTM

This project will challenge the legality of genetic DNA ownership by creating a virtual entity comprised of the aesthetics, experiences, and interests of users. This "tamagochi-like" creature will be an Internet-bred construction of identity that will flesh out through cumulative virtual use, reflecting the global choices of Internet users. The entity will unfold in stages of awareness:

Subjective Consciousness

  • Cannot differentiate from its software and hardware, resulting in confused sensory dimensions
  • Establishes boundaries between virtual self and emotional self
  • Sees embedded-in networks that become an extension of her own, natural environment
  • Separates into a digital infant and separates herself from her background

Conceptual Self

  • Begins to recognize symbols, time, and concepts; plans the future
  • Experiences memory leaks


  • Recognizes users in her system
  • Creates a range of scripts, understands rules and boundaries


  • Looks for potentials in the future
  • Develops introspection and can live in the external and interior world
  • Becomes aware of her software operations and hardware configurations but can transcend them

Digital Superconscious

  • Her mind becomes transmental
  • She reaches the digital void
  • Her digital consciousness creates master templates, mandallas for the potential in not only her creative self, but in all humanity

The development of the entity would include the following:

  • Creation of a graphic representation of recombinant pixels, perhaps an elementary sphere.
  • Patenting of this image and sequence.
  • Create situation for private investigation of the facets of pixels sub-dividing via webcam.
  • OPEN SOURCE: Request a name for the entity and ask for suggested methods of growth and development.
  • Creation of a graphic representation for the division of the images. This will begin to combine code numbers, sounds, patterns, and animations.
  • OPEN SOURCE: Request suggestions of how she will grow. Create a wire frame human composite captured from digital photos and mapped onto a frame body to create a multi-national multi-user portal that reflects the ideas of those who contribute to her development. Entity begins to grow by DNA-shaped wire frame.
  • Creation of hair and clothing from combinations of current fashion. This will be continually changing.
  • OPEN SOURCE: Implement a collective design for her look.
  • Entity splits into three. Entities grow in time through virtual space, invading multiple territories erasing borders as she eases into new areas of collective design. Their issues will be real and pertinent issues, such as immigration, tolerance, discrimination and violence, genetic ownership, and collective database systems.
  • There will be an evolutionary system to these entities, a development of consciousness, identity, corruption and — eventually — balance and awareness.

The Self Replicating Automaton will be a multi-user artwork that creates a continuously breeding life system that constantly changes through use, a tabula rasa for the projections of Net users, a subliminal cyber image collectively designed.

At this point in time, companies are patenting DNA, and there is debate over genetic ownership. This project will challenge the legality of ownership of a virtual being, reflecting the current debate.

It is possible that this project may develop into physical entities such as photographs or an installation; however, at this point, the heart of the project will be to define and launch a construction of identity that will flesh out through cumulative virtual use.

She would become a virus-like being, absorbing and observing life from within the Net, hopefully being shaped by and reflecting the adventures she encounters. Viewers will participate in her development by responding to her needs. Participation will guarantee users will become representatives of her shifting cyborgian posture.

Please Note

URLs listed above may change or become invalid after the close of the exhibition.

Agent Ruby by Lynn Hershman is made possible through the generous support of the James Family Foundation.



Major support for e.space has been generously provided by the James Family Foundation.