Intermedia Art

New Media, Sound and Performance

Curing the Vampire  October 2008

Lynn Hershman Leeson

Gene Ware and Tilda Swinton, stills from Curing The Vampire c. Lynn Hershman Leeson 2008

Four interviews by artist-filmmaker, Lynn Hershmann Leeson, partially shot in the virtual world of Second Life, released in four episodes from October.

Subverting the distinction between real and simulated, the interviews explore interwoven themes of revolution, empowerment, technology and the remix. Each interview examines how new and mass media mechanisms have generated change and how cultural and technological infrastructures have shaped the ability of individuals to have social and political impact.

Playing the part of Gene Ware, a character from the virtual world of Second Life, Hershman Leeson undertakes a set of interviews in conjunction with Tilda Swinton, posing questions to a selection of guests, including a politician, journalist, scientist and lawyer.


Gilberto Gil discusses his exile from Brazil and his involvement in The Tropicália movement, how after living and playing music in London, he returned to Brazil, eventually taking up the position of Minister for Culture, where he continues to promote free culture.

Elena Poniatowska, a renowned journalist and author dedicated to the promotion of equality and human rights, discusses how the mass media in South America remained silent at the time of the student massacres in Mexico in 1968 and how, through her use of publishing and distribution mechanisms, she inadvertently shifted state and cultural consciousness with an account of those events.

Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn, who is credited with having identified “the aging gene” or Telomeres in our DNA, discusses how this information shifts our understanding of who we are as humans, how in fact we are ourselves a genetic remix; and how advances in macro photographic processes have aided that revelation.

Lawrence Lessig, the mastermind behind Creative Commons, discusses open content licensing and how it will function globally in allowing people to use copy left to shift the boundaries of ownership and shared knowledge.


Hershman Leeson works in overlapping genres that explore questions of identity, presence, and the human body in relation to technology. Curing The Vampire carries forward themes explored in earlier work by Hershman Leeson, in which mixed realities operate between fact and fiction.

My path to interactive works began not with video, but with performance, when, in 1971, I created an alternative identity called Roberta Breitmore. Her decisions were random, only very remotely controlled. Roberta's manipulated reality became a model for a private system of interactive performances. Instead of being kept on a disc or hardware, her records were stored as photographs and texts that could be viewed without predetermined sequences…

Lynn Hershman Leeson

Roberta Breitmore has since been re-animated based on her archive, physically housed in the Special Collections Library at Stanford University. The new work, Life 2 is an archaeological survey of Roberta’s history, re-performed, recomposed and remixed.

In Curing The Vampire, Hershman Leeson tackles questions of appropriation and distribution from a broad cultural and political perspective. Challenging authenticity through the personification of a surreal virtual world character, a discussion around free culture and a radical re-thinking about the essence of our genetic make-up.

Film Credits
Curator / Executive Producer: Kelli Dipple
Produced by Tate Media 2008
Written Directed, Produced and Edited by Lynn Hershman Leeson
Starring Tilda Swinton as Tilda Swinton
Gene Ware: Lynn Hershman Leeson

Second Life Animation: Jeffrey Aldrich
Online Editor: Jessie Spencer
Editing Facility: Video Arts

New York - Gilberto Gil
Co Producer: Laura Blereau
Cinematography: Antonio Rossi
Sound: David Hocs

Mexico - Elena Poniatowska
Co Producer: Veronica Angeles-Franco / MultimediaCenter - Program of Audiovisual Proyects
Camera and Sound: Angel Viniegra and Eliud Romero

Italy - Tilda Swinton
Co Producer: Sandro Kopp
Cinematography: Maria Francesca Dell’acqua

San Francisco: Lawrence Lessig, Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn
Cinematography: Jim Choi, Brad Hoffarth
Sound: Antonio Bravo

Music: Cultura E Civilizacao by Gilberto Gil performed by Gal Costa, courtesy Creative Commons, downloaded from

Special Thanks
Bertha Cea
Centro de Capacitacion Cinematografica A.C.
San Francisco Art Institute
CCC Center of Film Trainee (Centro de Capacitacion Cinematografica)
Bitforms Gallery
Christopher Bratton
Alexandra Creighton
First Sun
Christian Hodell
Benjamín Juárez
George Leeson
Gordon Knox
Steve Sacks
Angeles Marin
Claudio Prado
Tull Alred (For audio correction)

With support from the Zabludowicz Trust

Gilberto Gil Interview

Lynn Hershman Leeson (as Gene Ware) and Tilda Swinton interview Gilberto Gil

Elena Poniatowska Interview

Lynn Hershman Leeson (as Gene Ware) and Tilda Swinton interview Elena Poniatowska

Elizabeth Blackburn Interview

Lynn Hershman Leeson (as Gene Ware) and Tilda Swinton interview Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn

Lawrence Lessig Interview

Lynn Hershman Leeson (as Gene Ware) and Tilda Swinton interview Lawrence Lessig

Video as Social Agent

Archaeologist, Michael Shanks, discusses public space and the world wide web as theatres of encounter