Alexandra Lerman is an artist based in New York and Saint Petersburg.
Her work interrogates systems governing the post-industrial landscape of immaterial labor through photography, sculpture, video, and performance. Her practice is thematically rooted in historical moments wherein natural ecosystems, language, bodily gesture, and expressive freedom come into conflict with corporate and governmental systems of control - such as agricultural and technical innovations, copyright law, and the built environment.
Lerman's work has been shown at Sculpture Center, Tina Kim Gallery, Storefront for Art and Architecture, Anthology Film Archives, Artists Space, Drawing Center, The Whitney Museum, and the New Museum in New York; Signal Center, Malmö in Sweden; and the State Russian Museum, and the Museum of Hygiene in Saint Petersburg, Russia. Lerman took part in the LMCC Workspace Program, Open Sessions Residency at the Drawing Center, LabVERDE residency in Manaus, Brazil, and Banff's A Position of DOCUMENTA (13), Alberta, Canada.
Hi, I’m @alexandra.lerman and I’m really excited to be part of HOXTON 253’s ART+ECOLOGY takeover series.
I’d like to introduce you to my video Tree Time (2020).
Tree Time imagines a dialogue between nature and technology unmediated by human presence. The film is shot by a drone camera in the Amazon rainforest enacting a disembodied point of view that floats through the densely compressed forest canopy. This artificial surveillance-observer envisages a different form of time: one which cannot be measured and is devoid of the narrative punctuation of seasons wherein all of the earth’s natural processes appear to unfold simultaneously.
The work’s title is informed by a series of interviews with a dendrochronologist who studies methods of tracking climate change by ‘reading’ the annual tree rings in the Amazon rainforest – ecological recordings which reveal a hidden dimension of linear time within nature itself. These organic inscriptions of detrimental human data recorded as tree rings echoes the process by which humans upload information deemed important for posterity into the cloud.
Tree Time by Alexandra Lerman
2020, 4K video, 8min
Soundtrack by Soren Roi
Mosquito Man is a series of cyanotypes created in the Amazon rainforest using mosquito suits which were developed to protect human skin from insects and the spread of infectious diseases. Mosquito Man was born out of the indexical printing process to depict the presence of an absent body, which is the central figure in these works. The see-through suit is filled with leaves, seeds, and palm tree bark found in the rainforest as well as power cords, printer ink cartridges, smartphone cases and other debris of contemporary human existence. The cyanotype process creates an indexical record of the mosquito suit on paper.
Historically the biggest barrier to colonization of the Amazon rainforest has been the hostility of the natural environment to man. Protective mesh suiting became prevalent in the late nineteenth century when it was discovered that mosquitoes were the predominant agent in spreading malaria. Netting became in this moment a necessary barrier between humans and nature which ultimately enabled the colonization and monetization of Amazonia.
As a last step in the process I apply a final layer of fluorescent day glow inks to colorize the monochrome cyanotypes, ‘infecting’ them with color in a way which is analogous to the enhancement of images through filters in smartphone cameras.
© Images courtesy of the artist
Soldiers of the Sun is a series of cyanotypes, a camera-less image-making process created by exposing photo-sensitive paper directly to UV light. Historically this process is linked to the British botanist, the first female photographer Anna Atkins and her album of British Algae created at the height of "natural history mania" in 1843.
In response I created my own life-size album of the age of the Anthropocene. The analog “sun prints” present an indexical image in the silhouette of abstracted figures, plants, seeds, and latest image-making technological gadgets such as smartphones and drones, as well as the Giant Hogweed (Heracleum Sosnowskyi) - a spectacularly anthropomorphic plant at the center of each composition.
This viral, invasive, photo-toxic species rapidly infesting Post-Soviet territories today was initially imported into the Soviet Union from the Caucasus as livestock feed in an innovative effort to restore agriculture after World War II. Each plant distributes 70,000 seeds into the local soil, often rendering the local site useless to any potential for future farming, which presents a potent metaphor for the spirit of the earth seeking revenge for the devastation wrought through human ecological distress. Both the process implicit in creating cyanotypes and the poison born of the Giant Hogweed’s foliage are triggered by the sun - one resulting in a painful and potentially deadly wound, and the other an ethereal image of the human body once-removed from the world.
Installation view: Soldiers of the Sun, or the Right to the Future Tense at Museum of Hygiene, Saint Petersburg, Russia during the Contemporary Art in Traditional Museum Festival Organized by ProArte Foundation, 2019
Soldiers of the Sun by Alexandra Lerman
2018-2019, 294cm x 150cm, cyanotype on watercolor paper
The video The Return of the Return of the Giant Hogweed takes a song by the English rock band Genesis as its starting point. Updated and translated into Russian the song narrates the post–Soviet story from the plant’s point of view.
Native to Central Asia, the Giant Hogweed was brought to Europe and the US as an exotic garden ornament, while in the Soviet Union it was cultivated as an innovative form of cattle feed. The noxious plant is an invasive species - its photo-toxic sap is triggered by the UV rays of the sun which causes third degree burns when it comes in contact with human skin.
In this project I was exploring the consequences of human ecological distress, in particular the role which the capitalist drive towards human progress plays in man-made climate catastrophes, and what happens when nature is displaced and begins to “retaliate.”
The Return of the Return of the Giant Hogweed (2019) by Alexandra Lerman
5min, HD Video, Soundtrack by Kel Valhaal
Swipe Swipe Swipe explores and problematizes the invisible abstraction of contract law that exists between the movement of human fingers and the backlit glass of the smartphone screen. The copyrighted, choreographed gestures of “swipe,” “slide to unlock,” and “pinch-to-zoom” are performed by millions of users each day and are owned by Apple, Inc. A series of smartphone-sized clay slabs are inscribed with indexical “portraits” of these ephemeral and often unconsciously executed touch-screen gestures and reclaimed by the human hand in the process. Fingers to digits, silicone to clay. Today’s cuneiform.
The series of smartphone sculptures are installed on a wall painted Rose Gold – a color invented in the nineteenth century by Carl Faberge as a new chromatic alloy of gold and copper. In 2015 Apple released the Rose Gold version of the iPhone and consequently the color was named one of the top trends of 2016 by Pantone. Today Rose Gold is routinely referred to as “millennial pink” or “Russian gold”.
Cobalt and lithium are minerals which are extracted from the earth to power rechargeable batteries in smartphones. In this project I perform these touch-screen gestures by gouging out clay with my fingers, mimicking the excavation of these precious metals from the depth of the earth.
Swipe Swipe Swipe by Alexandra Lerman. Dimensions variable, fired clay, rose gold paint. Images courtesy of the artist
Amazonia has been hit hard by COVID-19 and for my final takeover post, I’d like to spotlight the fundraiser called SOS Mateiros Amazonia. It was organized by the scientists at the National Institute of Amazonian Research (INPA), whom I met through Labverde. This fundraiser aims to help the freelance assistants like field hands (mateiros), boat drivers, tree climbers, cooks etc., who are regularly employed by scientific projects in the Amazon rainforest.
“With the interruption of research due to the pandemic and the discontinuance of governmental emergency aid, freelance assistants are without income or are involved in activities with a high risk of contamination by Covid-19. We identified 31 people in this situation who regularly work on our research projects. This campaign aims to raise sufficient funds to meet the minimum financial needs of these people for the next 6 months. We citizens, researchers, and conservationists in the Amazon ask for your financial support to help our assistants. You also can act on behalf of solidarity and the conservation of the Amazon!
To ensure that research assistants who have no other safe source of income have temporary support to maintain their personal and family needs. With the hope of achieving some degree of stability by the second half of this year, our initial goal is to support them for 6 months. The funds received will be divided equally and passed on monthly to each of the beneficiaries."
Find out how you can help and donate to SOS Mateiros Amazonia here: https://sosmateirosamazonia.webnode.com/about-the-campaign/
To conclude @alexandra.lerman‘s insightful takeover, we are extremely pleased to release 3 of her artworks as limited edition prints!
Tree Time 02 and Water Time 29
Both part of the cyanotype series created in the Amazon rainforest.
Yoga Gun Grip is part of Body Code 2014-2019. The original 26 drawings of Body Code reflect a sequence of 26 poses to which the founder of Bikram Choudhury Yoga Inc. held copyright until 2015. The Body Code project along with the Swipe Swipe Swipe series have been exploring and problematizing the invisible abstraction of contract law, the copyrighted and choreographed gestures of the human body.
All three Archival Giclée prints are a limited editions of 15 and printed on 300 gsm Fine Art Smooth Paper.
Support our artists by purchasing their brand new limited edition print, released for the occasion of the #H253Takeover!
The limited edition print sales directly support the artists and raise funds for their chosen charity/organisation with a 40/40% share and the non-profit programme of HOXTON 253 with the remaining 20%.
Alexandra has appointed @sos.mateiros.amazonia, a fundraiser which was organized by the scientists at the National Institute of Amazonian Research (INPA), whom Alexandra met during her time at the @labverde residency.