For several years (2014), my work – entitled ‘Apian’ – has followed an ongoing and open-ended research which explores the age-old interspecies relationship of honeybees to humans and humans to honeybees. Combining an anthropological approach and an art practice, it investigates contact zones where humans and honeybees meet. The research project looks at how both species influence and mould each other, and on a larger scale Gaïa itself. The results are polymorphous ethnographies which mix different media such as photography and text. Simultaneously, the outcomes span different fields such as art, humanities and politics. ‘Apian’ consists of multiple fragments that are at the same time autonomous and related to one another. Once reunited they create a sort of narrative universe which aims to offer refugia, places of refuge, for beekeepers, scholars and honeybees – where translation between different sensoria becomes possible. It’s a site where ontological choreography happens, where humans can think with honeybees, continue this age-old dance and invent new ones in alliance with technology. At the end, the idea is to invite all species onto the dancefloor. For the PHM 2019 photography grant, I propose three fragments of this ongoing research: ‘Hives, 2400 B.C. – 1852’ (IMAGES 01-05), ‘Inzerki’ (IMAGES 06–12) and ‘The beehive metaphor’ (IMAGES 13–20).
Through 375 archive images, ‘Hives, 2400 B.C. – 1852’ proposes to unveil the history of this architecture made for non-humans in a new way. This story is not presented in a classical linear written body: rather, it is polymorphous, mixing an exhaustive corpus of archive images collected over several years. This work avoids any chronological framework and proposes a new taxonomy of hives based on playful instinctive image associations. Hence, due to its form, this proposition of hives’ history resists becoming fixed, instead it becomes diverse, unsettled and cyclical.
For centuries, Inzerki has based its own ecology on beekeeping and has developed a circular and sustainable economy co-constructed with a specific species: honeybees. Situated in Morocco, this small village has one of the few remaining migratory and communal apiaries in the world, which happens to be the largest one as well. ‘Inzerki’ is an ongoing investigation that lies at the intersection between a photographic investigation and an ethnography in order to understand this particular ecology and to record it, which is urgent regarding its critical status nowadays.
‘The beehive metaphor’ is the genesis of ‘Apian'. By means of photography, the project translates and reexamines the essay of the Spanish art historian J.A. Ramirez, almost 20 years after it was first published. In 1998, he published The beehive metaphor which examines the ties between beekeeping and architecture and how the two have influenced each other. Hence, the project mixes pictures of hybrid structures – new models of hives I designed – with ready-made traditional hives and documentary photographs of human-made architecture. Moreover, my project is also influenced and informed by two personal sources: my grandfather who is a beekeeper himself and with whom I discovered beekeeping, and a passion for Science-Fiction literature of the 20th century.