2018 Triennial Archive

Pieter Schoolwerth and Alexandra Lerman

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The Casting Agent
2017, 6:35

Created by Pieter Schoolwerth

Directed, shot, and edited by Alexandra Lerman.
Produced by Pieter Schoolwerth and Alexandra Lerman.
Performances by Patrick Sarmiento and Pieter Schoolwerth.
Music by Soren Roi.
Special effects by Maria Beliaeva.
Sound mix by A.J. Tissian at The Wave Lab, NYC.
Special thanks to Jacqueline Humphries.


Your Vacuum Sucks
2015, 39:00

This film began one day when a very rare space opened up while I was cleaning my house. I was using a shitty old green vacuum and noticed it wasn’t picking anything up and, out of banal frustration, I instinctively blurted out “this vacuum sucks!” I then stopped for a moment to reconsider this statement: if it didn’t suck, it wouldn’t be a vacuum. In other words, performing the function of ‘sucking’ is precisely what creates its identity, yet if it doesn’t work properly, it still possesses and maintains this same identity – it sucks! There is (apparently) only one way it can be.

As one negotiates the presence of a vacuum, therefore, one is up against a dictatorial feedback loop in which, by intrinsically logical necessity, there is but one possible outcome, one way of being and feeling the presence of ‘it’. This somehow seems inordinately unsatisfactory. For the purposes of this film, I wanted to understand why this is the case and determine if, perhaps, there might be another way out of this state of affairs – a different way in which the vacuum could ‘work’ and be experienced.

That being said, half an inch above, it seemed the best way to ‘figure’ this out was to set up a situation in which a figure enters the vacuum, is sucked-in, so to speak, and in being so also contractually accepts the terms necessitated by the feedback loop that her or his body also literally be sucked-out. By depicting a figure that is both in the vacuum – as a hole, a shadow, a warped reflection, or an abstraction – yet also literally and entirely removed from ‘it’, one might have an appropriate model by which to represent life in this previously unknown space, one in which ‘space’ (its self [sic]) has literally been ‘taken out’. In this process of producing simultaneous presence and absence, maybe it could be possible to inhabit a newly space-less ground zero of sorts, wherein the vacuum’s categorically enforced, sadistically singular rule of being is momentarily suspended, so that something else could happen… and everyone has a vacuum, which they routinely use to prepare and maintain the ground below.

Your Vacuum Sucks is an ever-expanding vacuum of paintings, drawings, and a film produced in collaboration with Alexandra Lerman, which was inaugurally plugged in at What Pipeline in Detroit (September 2014), then moved on to New Delhi, India, at GallerySKE (October 2014), before landing in New York at Miguel Abreu Gallery (May, 2015). With each iteration, the vacuum has accumulated more and more material inside its (body) – an eminently space-less place – which, whether it ‘works’ or not, most certainly sucks… because if it didn’t suck, it wouldn’t be a vacuum
– Pieter Schoolwerth

A film by Pieter Schoolwerth and Alexandra Lerman
Produced by Pieter Schoolwerth, Alexandra Lerman, and Miguel Abreu.
Featuring (in order of ‘appearance’) Nate Young, Pieter Schoolwerth, John Olson, James Baljo, Madeline Hollander, Dean Bein, Anarexia Hurls, Mike Caiazzo, Alanna Higgins, Amina Oliveros, David Castillo, Contessa Stuto, Judy Schoolwerth, and Blake Rayne.
Music by Soren Roi, Nate Young, Wolf Eyes, and Jonathan Canady.
Special Effects by Maria Beliaeva and Alexander Chertok.
Sound Mix by A.J. Tissian at The Wave Lab, NYC.


Artist Biographies

Pieter Schoolwerth is an artist and filmmaker based in Brooklyn, NY. Since receiving his BFA from the California Institute of the Arts in 1994, he has exhibited internationally, with notable solo shows at Thread Waxing Space, Greene Naftali, American Fine Arts Co., Miguel Abreu Gallery, New York, Galerie SKE, New Delhi, India, Galerie Nathalie Obadia, Paris and Brussels, and Capitain Petzel, Berlin. His work has been included in group exhibitions at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, The Whitney Museum of American Art, Centre Pompidou, Paris, The Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art, Ridgefield, CT, the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, Sadie Coles HQ, London, and Gavin Brown Enterprises, New York. His work is in the permanent collections of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Denver Art Museum, and the Phoenix Art Museum. In 2017, Schoolwerth presented his latest project, Model as Painting, in a series of three iterations with solo exhibitions in Berlin, New York, and Paris. From 2003 to 2013, Schoolwerth ran Wierd Records and the Wierd Party at Home Sweet Home on the LES of NYC. Wierd released music by 42 bands working in the genres of minimal electronics, coldwave, and noise, and produced over 500 live music, dj, and performance art events internationally.


Alexandra Lerman is a Russian born New York-based artist whose work interweaves documentary and fiction in sculpture, performance, photography, and video to interrogate systems and ideologies governing the post-industrial world of immaterial labor, production, communication and mediation. The themes of her work locate themselves in historical moments in which natural ecosystems, language, bodily gesture, and expressive freedom come into conflict with the corporate and governmental systems of control such as agricultural and technical innovations, copyright law, and architectural planning.
Lerman’s work has been shown at SculptureCenter, Tina Kim gallery, Where, Storefront for Art and Architecture, Anthology Film Archives, Austrian Cultural Forum, Artists Space, Whitney Museum, New Museum, Queens Museum in New York and MUSAC in Spain. Alexandra took part in LMCC Workspace Program in New York (2012-2013); Banff Centre’s “01 The Retreat: A Position of DOCUMENTA (13)” in Alberta, Canada, Open Sessions at the Drawing Center (2014-16), New York and she is participating in the LabVerde Residency in the Amazon, Manaus, Brazil in 2018.  She holds an MFA from Columbia University, 2012 and a BFA from the Cooper Union School of Art, 2004.