The Advent of Longing
In Pursuit of Worldly Desires
Collaborative performance and installation by Sarah Bernstein
Monoprints by Gino Castellanos
Night Grass (installation view)
Grass, wood, tulle, spandex, mirrors, fabric, curtain rod
The Advent of Longing
The performance wall installation and presented at Gallery 1010 belong to a developing body of work which has grown out of my interest in historical locust swarms of the United States. I began research this subject nearly a year ago with a desire to understand why grasshoppers biologically swarm. Like many others, I had grown up around grasshoppers. However, it was not until recently that I learned the creatures of my childhood were the same animals capable of the sweeping agricultural devastation recounted in folktales and bible stories. To become aware of a secret capacity within something so familiar was startling and deeply inspiring.
The history and cultural impact of locust swarms is so vast it weaves itself into the story of humanity itself. The realm of locusts is one of pure intersectionality and co-arising. In the United States, cycles of swarming were influenced by westward expansion, dietary practices brought to North America by colonists, and the industrial revolution. In turn, locust swarms inspired a legacy of USDA policies, the development of need-based charity in America, and aesthetics of pastoralism within the American West.
In my research I found a number of first-hand accounts describing the Rocky Mountain locust plagues, which reached a peak in the midwestern states around the mid 1870’s. These accounts contained elaborate and detailed imagery that seemed more like the recollection of a tall tale or local miracle, than one of an agricultural pest. I became quite interested in the way these accounts resembled the religious concept of a “terrible miracle” and subsequently my work began explore locusts through the concept of liturgical or folkloric impulse—the desire to revise, adapt and re-enact stories which contain an element of the miraculous.
The performance you are seeing here tonight is a collaboration-in-progress between Bret Berry, Gabriel Antonio Reed, and myself. It looks at the locust outbreaks of the 1870’s through a lens of the erotic pastoral, anachronism, folktale, and glitch. The musical component consists of electronic compositions, sourced locust field recordings, oral history and the harmonium, an instrument which peaked in American popularity during the locust plagues of the 1800s. The projected video in the performance is a simulation of the night sky as seen from Plattsmouth, Nebraska in June 1875. This is where Albert Childs, a local judge and occasional meteorologist stared at the sky for days in an attempt to calculate the size of the locust swarm passing overhead. His data accurately estimated the swarm to cover close to 198,000 square miles. It is my intent to continually view this subject matter, its history, and creative potential with the same determination and awe.
November 4, 2022