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To Save the Bees, Art and Activism Cross-Pollenate

Nine artists explore the cultural and scientific ramifications of bee extinction.
Ex-Purgo/Purge, Beth Moysés, 2011 Courtesy of the artist and Fernando Pradilla Gallery, Madrid

As many bee species inch closer to extinction, measures to preserve and rebuild their populations are becoming exponentially more vital. Perhaps art is a prime medium through which to conduct bee activism, or at least that is part of the motivating ideology behind Nectar: War Upon the Bees, a group exhibition at Pratt Manhattan Gallery that brings together the work of nine international artists each exploring the societal importance of bees and the ongoing cultural machinations contributing to their demise.


Envisioned as a “visual essay,” according to the exhibition catalog, Nectar: War upon the Bees uses a variety of visual metaphors relating to bee behavior to drive home its points. In Carlos Schwartz’s The Dance 2, for example, the Spanish artist utilizes the honeybee “waggle dance,” a series of movements intended to inform other bees of the location of nearby food sources, to create two drawings based on the dance's two variations.

Colombian artist Luis Fernando Ramirez CelisWalden 13 is a small structure made out of synthetic honeycomb designed to resemble Walden 7, a Spanish apartment complex designed by architect Ricardo Bofill Leví. His building is, in turn, inspired by the utopian community Walden Two, from a B.F. Skinner sci-fi novel of the same name, a layered reflection on how humans intervene in their surroundings.

The Dance 2, Carlos Schwartz, 2016. Courtesy of the artist

Beyond the obvious need for bee activism, this exhibition originates from a pattern of contemporary artists working with bees and their culture over the past few years, as noted by the exhibition’s curator Berta Sichel. “Over the years, I have seen artists working with this subject or close to it here, in Latin America, and Europe. The idea was to put these works together to show the importance of the subject,” Sichel tells The Creators Project. “Only Carlos Schwartz did a piece for the show, and it was a coincidence.”

Walden 13, Luis Fernando Ramirez Celis, 2013. Courtesy of the artist

“When we started to talk about the show, a low-cost department store opened in Madrid, a huge space where you can find T-shirt for three bucks and where there are always lines. The roof lights of the space are in neon and in a hexagonal shape that brought to the artist’s mind to the form of a bee hive,” Sichel elaborates. “He photographed the ceiling and painted over them the two movements that the bees do. The piece talks about consumerism and how all of these things are related since everything is interconnected.”


Apicula Enigma, Marine Hugonnier, 2013.Courtesy of the artist and Nogueras Blanchard, Barcelona/Madrid

As compelling as Nectar: War Upon the Bees is, bee activism at Pratt is expected to extend beyond the ongoing exhibition: “Nick Battis, Director of Exhibitions at Pratt Institute, is planning a couple of public programs for February. One we have been talking about is organizing a workshop for kids about the subject,” reveals Sichel. “Mr. Battis is also in contact with Christopher Jensen, an associate professor of Ecology and Evolution at Pratt Institute, to organize a panel discussion on the subject.”

Abubilla (Hoopoe) from The Ornithologist’s Dream II, Juan del Junco, 2008. Courtesy of the artist

Check out Nectar: War Upon the Bees until February 11, 2017 at Pratt Manhattan Gallery.


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