Headlands Center for the Arts

Alexandra Kleeman

new york | writing
Artist in Residence Program 2019

Artist Statement

I feel that to be human is to be as deeply dependent upon nature as any other animal, but also to be alienated in mind and spirit from that natural order.  This paradox has driven my writing ever since, and I often write about the phenomenology of consumerism, ecological degradation, and the way mundane contemporary life is haunted by older paradigms of survival and risk.  I operate intuitively, driven by the awareness an idea or event that I can’t see fully, but which I want to make real on the page in front of me. There’s uncertainty and discovery in the process, which can be frustrating, but the work feels more alive to me if I don’t have total control and mastery over it—if I can be surprised by it, then it is real.

While at Headlands

I’m working on my third book, a novel that brings my fascination with consumerism, artificiality, and biopolitics to bear on the California water crisis, an ecological catastrophe unfolding in slow motion. Something New Under the Sun is set in a near-future Los Angeles that resembles our own—except that all but the richest denizens drink WAT-R, a synthetic substitute for water that is cheaper and easier to find than the real stuff.

The natural landscape is often pushed to the background of human-centered stories—my goal is to write about this landscape in a way that gives it agency, insists on its role in everything we do, and highlights the way in which supposedly minor changes to our relationship with our surroundings can have truly catastrophic ramifications.  I’ll be spending a lot of time hiking the headlands, staring silently into the chaparral and reading its signs.

Selected Works

You Too Can Have A Body Like Mine (novel excerpt), 2015 (HarperCollins)
“You, Disappearing” (short story), 2016 (HarperCollins, Guernica)
“The Bed Rest Hoax” (nonfiction), 2015 (Harper’s)

Personal Website

http://www.alexandrakleeman.com