NURTUREart is pleased to present Becoming Beast, a solo exhibition of sculpture and a multi-channel video installation by Laura Bernstein. In the style of cabinets of curiosity and natural history museum dioramas, audiences are presented with grotesque humanoid creatures from a confluence of pre-enlightenment fantasies and future environmental collapse anxiety.
Bernstein draws from medieval bestiaries, the journals of world explorers, and descriptions of mythical animals in Pliny the Elder’s Natural History to create her sculptures. Her work imagines, for humans specifically, how radical evolutionary adaptations can be advantageous to survive in an altered climate. Suspended in paper, wax, raw wool, felt, and other organic material, her creatures propose alternative ecologically adapted bodies. Fused legs taper to a fleshy umbrella used to shield from UV radiation while foregoing bipedal movement; or oversized ears regulate body temperature in an environment that fluctuates in the extreme. These viscerally rendered humanoids, emerging from a new primordial soup, give animal form to a vision of awe, terror, exoticism, and fantasy.
A three-channel video installation allows audiences to observe creatures in various biomes and seasons, and a single-channel video introduces recordings of twentieth-century psychologists and behaviorists, including B.F. Skinner, Harry Harlow, sexual educators, and news broadcasters. The video serves as a document introducing another order of animal: genetically modified super-humans performing the role of pseudo-scientist by probing, measuring, and testing “lower” creatures. Their efforts suggest a quest to capture, control, and deploy their biological findings to ensure their own survival. Only, the creatures, too, seem to perform tests of their own.
Becoming Beast explores, with grotesque humor and fantasy, the free movement of genes, body parts, biological mechanisms, and power when the boundaries that define ecosystems dissolve.
Performance: A Speculative Lecture Performed by Emily Reilly
Sunday, May 6th, 4–6pm
Pseudoscientist Emily Reilly presents the observations, field notes, and recordings accumulated after extensive field work on a group of half human, half creature species. Some of these species bear striking resemblance to the beasts recorded by Roman statesman and philosopher Pliny The Elder in his 77-79AD Natural History. Drawing from the world of wonder cabinets and 19th century sideshow performances, this lecture infuses scientific methodology with myth and medieval history to challenge historical modes of classification in order to raise questions about the future of our evolutionary biology.
Laura Bernstein (b. 1987, New York, NY) is a multidisciplinary artist based in Brooklyn using video, performance, sculpture and installation to reflect on human behavior, alternative histories and the grotesque. Bernstein’s current project draws from mythology and medieval bestiaries to examine the relationship between art and science, imagination and reality, nature and ecology. Residencies, awards and exhibitions include: The Sharpe-Walentas Studio Program (2017–18), The Bronx Museum of the Arts AIM program (2016–17) and its Fourth AIM Biennial, The Lighthouse Works Fellowship (2016) and Vermont Studio Center (2013). She has shown her work in Philadelphia, New York, Chicago, Cincinnati, Austria, and Rome, and her art is part of the permanent collection of the National Dance Institute in New York, NY. Becoming Beast is her first solo exhibition. She received her BFA in sculpture from the RISD and her MFA from the University of Pennsylvania.
Special thanks for collaborations, performance and support to Max Ackerman, Nathan Albright, Natessa Amin, Emily Arons, Alex Balsen, Allison Bernstein, Elisabeth Bernstein, Lee Bernstein, Michael Bernstein, Claire Bidwell, Jenny Blumenfield, Anthony Bowers, Kim Bowers, Fred Bratman, Jacob Bratman, Krysta Brayer, Nikki Calonge, Paola Di Tolla, Tamar Ettun, Dani Fuerth, Lily Garrison, Patrick Gaughan, Draeger Gillespie, Lauren Gross, Kelsey Halliday Johnson, Meredith James, Gretta Johnson, Simone Kearny, Gabriel Kruis, Josh Ku, Jessica Laser, Christine Lee, Jacques Louis Vidal, Nate Malinowski, Matt Marcello, and Ayako Maruyama, Hannah Olson, Martha Olson, María Paz Ortúzar, Anna Ottum, Laura Perez-Harris, Frankie Phillips, Lizzie Presser, Rebecca Pristoop, Emily Reilly, Hayden Reilly, Meredith Ries, Lydia Rosenberg, Justin Rosengarten, John Sergent, David Sherman, Gordon Stillman, Emily Taibleson, Liam Van Vleet, Tina Wang, Meredith Walker, Calvin Waterman, Amalia Wilson, Paul Whackers, and Carolyn White.