Yorkshire Sculpture Park Bee Project

April 18, 2010 § Leave a comment

On 6 March the artist Rebecca Chesney begins a year-long residency at Yorkshire Sculpture Park, researching the bees and plants of the Bretton Estate to develop new work. From her studio in the nature reserve, Chesney will document the differing bee species on site, making maps of their journeys around YSP and linking her work to the current and historic planting schemes of the estate. With the help of experts and visitors, Chesney’s residency will draw attention to the plight of bees which are under great threat: a fifth of all honeybees in the UK were lost in 2008/9 and their disappearance would be catastrophic.

Bees are of immense significance: practically, with bees pollinating a third of the food we eat, and culturally – their behaviour being used as a metaphor for a great number of human activities, from religious belief to political ideology. During her time at YSP Chesney will make work that interweaves ecological aspects of bee populations, folkloric traditions and apian-inspired art, poetry and prose to create a new body of work. Apian inspired art dates back thousands of years – the earliest known examples being the cave paintings that detail honey collection discovered in the Cueva de la Arana in Valencia. Examples can be found in music, notably in the Flight of the Bumblebee by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, and visual art with the highly influential artist Joseph Beuys who was particularly interested in the organisational systems of bees and created works using honey and beeswax. The Catalan architect Antonio Gaudí took inspiration from the bee both decoratively and structurally, inspired by the inner chambers produced in the hive, and the poet Sylvia Plath wrote a series of bee poems, which are included in her seminal work, Ariel.


Working with the Regional Bee Inspector (FERA), Chesney will introduce two honeybee colonies into her nature reserve site and on key dates visitors will be given access to this area – which is normally out of bounds. The restoration of the estate boathouse and immediate grounds has created a unique environment extending down to the lakes, which will be used for special events, discussions and project related activities. The boathouse, with an uninterrupted view across the lake, will be Rebecca’s studio for the duration of the project and will also be a learning and contemplative space for invited groups. As well as being able to view the new hives, visitors will have the chance to experience the inner workings of an observation hive installed in the studio.

A display in the Upper Space of the YSP Centre will feature the initial outcomes of the residency, including pressed plant specimens, intricate pencil drawings, a new wall work and photography as well as conceptual and actual mapping of the creature’s significance to the site. Throughout the residency, visitors are invited to participate by using bee identification cards and making bee promises, for example, to plant something at home that will attract bees in exchange for a limited edition pin badge.

Chesney is a Preston based artist whose practice considers changing environments and human activity through drawing, photography, installation and film. Her solo exhibitions include The Lowry, Salford; Stadtgalerie Kiel, Germany; University of Massachusetts, Boston; and her most recent residencies have been with the University of Aberdeen Anthropology Department and Op zoek naar het Noordgevoel, Amsterdam. Chesney took part in the 2006 Liverpool Biennial and is a co-director of Pest Publications.

Text credit: E-Flux

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