May 19–Jun 23, 2018
Laura Bernstein (21), Bestial Field Recordings: 2015-2018
The framework for these moving images “is the vivid surrealism of the medieval mind. Pageantry and masks are employed to create hybrid species capable of adapting to severe ecological change. These beasts are reminiscent of the fevered creations found on the edge of illuminated manuscripts and early maps.” ~ Ava Hassinger from Apparatus a video and performance exhibition at Napoleon gallery, 2017, Philadelphia, PA
These video recordings capture creatures posing, preening, courting and marking their territory within various natural environments. Half human, half creature, these forms recall the fantastical beasts recorded by Pliny the Elder in his Natural History, 77 €”79 AD, and later produced in the Nuremberg Chronicle, written by Hartmann Schedel and published in 1493. Pliny's Natural History records the traits and functions of a number of creatures through text and illustration.
The shape of these bodies–captured on film–speculate how the landscape might change and how the anatomy and physiology of our bodies may need to adapt and change to withstand environmental elements. These forms draw from the past while projecting onto the future, reflecting our own emotional state of unknowing while asking: “What makes something human?”.
The Sciapode: Mono-pod, Umbrella foot. The one-foot extends from the center of its body acting as a shield protecting it from the sun. It is known that the Sciapode has a weakness for tomatoes. The smell alone can bring it to a state of arousal.
Panotti: The enlarged surface area of Panotti’s ears helps regulate body temperature. Flapping their ears keeps them cooler for longer or, conversely, in extremely cold weather their ears have the capacity to act as blankets to shield their bodies against the chills of the night.
Prehistoric Bird: has wings but cannot fly, stands 10 feet tall.
Arthropod Mare: (referred to here as AM) Feeds by filtering particles from the water using its modified scaly leg. AM has no internal organs and at night, it glows with light. Its body is capable of squeezing through the width of its central face hole. AM filters the infected seaweed that lines the seashores and is used as a binding agent in most processed foods.
Supernumerary Nipples: SN has been documented since Roman times as Artemis of Ephesus and was featured in legends prior to that time. Faithful to no one but self. The evolution of SN is attributed to increased femininity and fertility. Their breasts not only distract predators from their uteruses, but also prevent fertilization by trapping unwelcome sperm in their mammary glands.
Shakespeare Horny: SH experiences perpetual itch €”to find relief SH thrusts against thick grasses. In Shakespeare's work, men whose wives were unfaithful grew horns due to sexual frustration. Made a fool from infidelity.
Gluteus Maximus Invertus: GM invertus, a giant swollen bum with carbuncle, usually seen on all fours. GM prefers to live in rocky areas, as a protective measure, so bum might be mistaken for rock. GM's character most resembles goat, with Bacchus-like behavior. Perpetually dehydrated.
Mono-Handler: is ambidextrous. Its giant hand extends from elbows, which are fused and function as one unit. The hand is heavy and takes great discipline to raise. It uses its fingers as net. Has charge over GM invertus.
Tomato: a shape shifting nightshade fruit consumed as vegetable. The smell alone lures. Though In the Middle Ages, The tomato was thought poisonous because the acidity levels were so high they burned through the pewter plates on which Tomatoes were most commonly served.
Laura Bernstein is a multidisciplinary artist based in Brooklyn, NY. She uses video, performance, sculpture, installation and painting to reflect on human and animal behavior, historical fictions, mythology, and the grotesque. Her work has been included in exhibitions at The Children's Museum of The Arts, New York, NY; BRIC, NURTUREart, Y2Kgroup Project Space and the Long Island University Humanities Gallery, all in Brooklyn New York; The Bronx Museum of the Arts, Bronx, NY; Vox Populi and Icebox Space, both Philadelphia, PA; ACRE Projects, Chicago, IL; Anytime Dept. Cincinnati, OH; and Franz Josefs Kai 3, Vienna, Austria. Her artwork is part of the permanent collection of National Dance Institute, NY. She has received fellowships and residencies including the Sharpe Walentas Studio Program, Brooklyn; The Bronx Museum of the Arts’ Artist in the Marketplace program; The Lighthouse Works Fellowship, Fishers Island, NY; the Vermont Studio Center Residency Fellowship; and the Toby Devan Lewis Fellowship. She was a 2018-19 Grant Recipient of The Franklin Furnace Fund and has directed and produced A Speculative Performance Presented by The Institute of Super-Species Research and Experimentation in conjunction with the BRIC Biennial: Volume III, South Brooklyn Edition. Bernstein holds a BFA from Rhode Island School of Design and an MFA with a certificate in Time-Based Media from the University of Pennsylvania.