A project commissioned by the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco
December 16, 2017–March 25, 2018
Legion of Honor and de Young
Lynn Hershman Leeson’s VertiGhost is inspired by and reinterprets Alfred Hitchcock's film Vertigo (1958), key scenes for which were shot at the Legion of Honor. A multi-part installation about identity and authenticity, VertiGhost explores the tension between the difficulty or lack of desire to distinguish between reality and fiction versus the pursuit of truth.
The film at the core of VertiGhost features the re-creation of select scenes from Vertigo, documentation of a painting by Amedeo Modigliani in the Museums’ collection that was enshrouded by questions of authenticity, as well as interviews about the construction of realities in life and art. The project also consists of an installation at both museum buildings and a live web component that incorporates live footage of viewers from the Legion of Honor by digitally inserting and implicating them into the narrative.
VertiGhost is commissioned by the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.
The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco’s Contemporary Arts Program is made possible by Presenting Sponsor The Lisa & Douglas Goldman Fund.
Major support is provided by The Paul L. Wattis Foundation and Nion McEvoy and Leslie Berriman. Significant support is provided by Frances F. Bowes. Additional support is provided by Joachim and Nancy Hellman Bechtle, Kate Harbin Clammer and Adam Clammer, Katie Schwab Paige and Matt Paige, Shaari Ergas, Kaitlyn and Mike Krieger, Gwynned Vitello, and the Contemporary Support Council of the Fine Arts Museums.
Visitors to the museum are captured by Carlotta's eyes, which are streaming below. In the absence of visitors, you will see clips from the film VertiGhost.
Winter 2017 - CULTURED MAGAZINE
At San Francisco’s Legion of Honor, in the room where Alfred Hitchcock shot Vertigo, you can sit on the bench on which Kim Novak sat and gaze at a portrait that has a GoPro camera hidden behind its eyes. The piece is part of a complex installation by pioneering artist and filmmaker Lynn Hershman Leeson, which is on display from December 16 to March 25. Titled VertiGhost, the work explores the shifting relations between fact, fiction, surveillance and identity—themes that Hershman Leeson has been investigating for more than 50 years. Asked to come up with a site-specific work that made reference to the collection, the artist thought it would be exciting to deal with the museum’s Hollywood history. “In an era of fake news,” she explains, “mistaking false information for truth is a topic whose time has come.”
12.11.2017 - SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE
The video rolls with that familiar Hitchcockian soundtrack, and there is the backside of Kim Novak as she steps from a luxury sedan and gracefully walks toward the Legion of Honor. But this is not Vertigo. This is VertiGhost, a clever video installation that employs exact re-creations of the San Francisco scenes from that famous 1958 film to explore questions of double and hidden identity. Multiple media artist Lynn Hershman Leeson hired a film crew of 15 or 20, plus three models to play the Novak role, to create VertiGhost. The original San Francisco locations were shot with the same angles and lighting used by Alfred Hitchcock. The result is spooky in how precise it is. Spookier still is the setting for Leeson’s installation. It opens Saturday, Dec. 16, at the Legion of Honor in the same gallery that Hitchcock used for the scene in which Novak sits on a bench and studies a mysterious painting called “Portrait of Carlotta.”
01.18.2018 - BAY AREA REPORTER
"Almost all of Hitchcock's films deal with obsession and violence toward women and decapitation of their psyches," she notes, but Vertigo, which film historian David Thomson has called "Hitchcock's finest moment as a master of cruelty and torture," was particularly suited for Leeson's latest brainchild, not only because it was shot on location in San Francisco and the museum, but because it represented an opportunity to revisit the ghost of the production, revise it on her own terms, and "turn everyone into a performer."
01.12.2018 - SLOAN SCIENCE & FILM
Science & Film: Why did you choose Vertigo as the subject of this commission?
Lynn Hershman Leeson: It occurred to me that this great film was shot at the Legion of Honor and the same bench [from scenes central to Vertigo] remained in the gallery. Why not use that architecture and film history? Essentially every visitor to the Museum who sat on that bench was re-performing Kim Novak’s role as Madeleine. I was really lucky nobody thought of it before.
S&F: Can you talk about the technology you used to create VertiGhost?
LHL: It’s so easy. It starts with going into the gallery room, because everything is identical [to when Hitchcock filmed there in 1958]. In a corner of the gallery, I put a mirror with a value sign on it that reflects a manikin with Madeleine’s clothes on it. The whole installation is about mirroring, value, artificiality, and twins. You sit down on a bench in front of my version of the Carlotta painting, which I blurred because it was more interesting, like blurring the truth of surveillance. Hidden in flowers [on the bench] is a 3D printed sensor that looks like a leaf.
02.20.2018 - MONOPOL
"When people sit down on the bank of the gallery, they often imitate Kim Novak," says the artist, who shot 35 short film clips with three Madeleine doubles at various "Vertigo" locations and integrated them into the installation. Similar to Maddin, Hershman also expands on the "vertigo" perspective by making Madeleine play not only by a Ukrainian - akin to Kim Novak - but also by a brunette curator and an actress from Nigeria. In video interviews, the actresses reflect on their role play.
Congratulations to the winners of the VertiGhost contest! During the first few days of the VertiGhost exhibition, we asked viewers of the VertiGhost film to try to spot the artist hidden in one of the scenes. Out of 38 entries, the first fifteen who correctly identified Lynn Hershman Leeson in the film won a small limited edition print of one of the pieces from the exhibition. Congratulations to our winners:
Frank Thorsten Moll