I use marionettes and handmade landscapes to explore relationships — with the body, with others, with nature and culture — through a lens that moves between alienation and deep connection. The marionette characters in my films, with their carefully detailed bodies and spontaneous movements, are at once organic and otherworldly, active in the stories of their lives yet one step removed from the ever-implied flesh and blood puppeteer off-screen. Similarly, the landscapes they inhabit are both epic and claustrophobic in scale — no larger than a tabletop, they blur domestic scenes with nature’s expanses, the banal objects of everyday life with fantasy and prehistory.
I’ve always been interested in forms that embody dualities and facilitate an encounter with the Other. As a Russian immigrant raised in the Midwest, my identity bounces between opposing poles, rarely landing in a place of belonging. And yet, of course, there is nothing more American, more embedded in this complex landscape, than the experience of difference, alienation, and otherness. While Eastern European traditions of puppetry and dollmaking lay the foundation for my work, their ability to access the vulnerability and imagination of childhood allows for an exploration of otherness that isn’t tethered to identity politics or limited in its mode of expression.
My work has been performed at St. Ann's Warehouse (Brooklyn, NY), The Brick (Brooklyn, NY), Nouveau 47 (Dallas, TX), and the Actors Studio Drama School (New York, NY), and I've been awarded residencies in performance, playwriting, and the visual arts at St. Ann's Warehouse (Brooklyn, NY), the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council's Workspace program (New York, NY), and Mana Contemporary (Jersey City, New Jersey). I've been featured on CNN and MSN, and online at places like Slate, Gizmodo, and the A.V. Club.
I'm also one of only a handful of American artists bringing the 19th century art of scrimshaw into the modern age. You can find my collection of hand-etched scrimshaw ostrich eggs and knives here.
- Yuliya Tsukerman, 2017
Drop me a line at tsukerman dot yuliya at gmail dot com, or follow me on Instagram @yeahliya.