Bee Time Artist residency July 2017
Participating artists: Cristina Ferrández [ES] / Ilaria Villagrassa & Roberto Ghisu [IT] / Florence Boyd [UK] / Jorge Gallardo Altamirano [ES] / Lynne Shapiro [US] / Nessa Darcy [IR] / Karmit EvenZur [IS,UK] / Veronica Marquez-Veytia [MX-ES] / Laila Holwerda [NL] / Joanna Laurie [AUS] & Lydia Heath [UK] & Pol Parrhesia [BG] artistic advisors.
Meetings with Bee Guardians and other Inspiring people
During the first week of our residency we had the chance to meet people who offer true inspiration for respectful, natural beekeeping and agricultural practices. We met Heidi Hermann and Gareth John, both Trustees of the Natural beekeeping trust with whom we had a most insightful conversation about the Being of the Bee and the experience of an embodied awareness of inter-connectedness while working consciously with this Being. We met with Ioonah Woods from Plaw Hatch farm who took us to visit her apiary and told us about her personal journey with the bees, and her educational work with hives and children. Peter Brown from Tablehurst farm spoke to us about biodynamic farming practices. Daniel Docherty from Sacred Art of Geometry contemplated Hexagons and the wisdom of six-folded nature with us, and Phillip Kilner helped us to further understand the relationships of phenomena as a narrative.
Like all other processes in a beehive, the process of making honey is a collective endeavor of the colony. Foraging bees return to the hive with their honey stomach full of nectar they've collected from flowers. In their stomach, the nectar is mixed with enzymes that break down the complex sugars into simpler sugars. They then regurgitate the already modified nectar and pass it to a younger bee inside of the hive. The hive bee ingests the sugary offering and further breaks down the sugars. It then regurgitates the inverted nectar into a cell of the honeycomb where the high water content is eventually evaporated (to reach about 18% water content) and then the cell can be capped to store the honey.
If I were to imagine a human process equivalent to that of making honey I might imagine a scene from our art studio at Emerson college. Walking into the studio any time of the day I would find people at their desks engaged in their artistic practices. But beyond the video editing, painting, writing and other such activities that were taking place, there was a sense of something else being made too. The 'nectar' we collected from our visits to beekeepers, from the books we read and from our direct encounters with the bees themselves, was 'digested' and then passed from one artist to another; ideas shared and mulled over together. Our inspiration became a shared invisible substance. Each artist was engaged in their own process, yet there was, I felt, a sweetness of spirit, that we were creating together, and which became very tangible when we shared our work in the final exhibition.
One evening as dusk was settling in, a few of us went to spend some time at the apiary. Emerson college has two mud hives that were built with biodynamic beekeeper Ralf Roessner, one log hive created by the Beevolution group and two national hives. They face south east overlooking the valley where the Medway runs, and Ashdown forest in the distance. The air was still with a sense of the day collecting itself. Colors were turning blues and greys.
There were clusters of bees at each of the entrances. A Hush. The being, the colony, returning to itself from it's day of foraging. We sat down by the log hive, to share this moment with them. As the cluster outside the hive seemed to be gathering the last of the external impressions before all the bees entered back in, I sat there embroidering the piece I have been working on. Veronica was sitting close, her presence part of the magic fabric that was being woven by that moment.
It reminded me of one of Sean Borodale's poems from his Bee Journal collection;
'All day they have dragged in
jewel-pins of nectar.
Now the whole of light rests.'
Nessa Darcy, Log Hive July 2017
Photos by Nessa Darcy, Pol Parrhesia, Roberto Guisu & Karmit EvenZur