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A dialogue: Elbbienen und Brüsselbienen
artwork for public space, Hamburg
In April 2018, Dirck Möllmann was appointed as the new independent city curator of Hamburg. His program Hamburg Maschine (Hamburg Machine) brings together individual artistic positions, art activism, and discursive elements that establish a tangible and accessible artistic practice. By drawing on the history of public art, the program will open up new paths for urban art in Hamburg. Why should Hamburg be called a machine? In the twentieth century, the current city was a representative stage, a productive factory, a planned infrastructure, a built physicality, and a social reality, sustained by a political community. This has not changed, yet the city has been radically transformed by the current cybernetic epoch. In this transition from an industrial to a machinist and socio-technological system, what will become of the urban structures in place? What functions can a future art for and in public space have? And, what meaning will art obtain in this society?
Concerning the intention of the city curator's program HAMBURG MASCHINE to make a complex city feasible and graspable as a machinical texture, the work of AnneMarie Maes fits perfectly. She visualizes and exemplifies these big questions, and gives them an artistic materiality enhanced by modern technology. Her work makes abstract thinking sensible and perceptible for the public with a high artistic quality in order to create a place for discussion, contemplation and reflection of socio-technological issues. ElbBienen is a research project on the edge of art and science. It evokes issues of sustainability and biodiversity, giving viewers an artistic experience of Annemarie Maes’ ongoing research related to the disappearance of the honeybee. The goal of the ElbBienen-beehive is a double one. On the one hand it offers a safe refuge for city honeybees, and on the other hand it is a biosensor that interacts with the environment and that measures the pollution of the foraging fields around the beehive. Therefore the ElbBienen project explores ecological aspects of digitality in the context of Hamburg Maschine, a metaphor of the city as a machine in the digital age. Animal life, especially bees, are essential for the functioning of a social community. Certain organisational forms of social collectives have been compared with the functioning of bee colonies, e. g. as Joseph Beuys did with his notorious Honigpumpe at Documenta 6 in Kassel, 1977. To connect advanced technology with a living biosystem like a beehive is an inspiring way of exploring innovative modes of interaction and interfacing between artificial machinist, classical human and instinctive animal intelligence for the future. Maes’ invention is completely new for the international art place Hamburg and (to be honest) this project is science fiction in nowadays urban reality. The project will now be realized for the first time in public space, because the topics of how to deal with the interaction of humans, machines, and animals are of significant public interest. Instead of using an art installation figuratively in order to make a pedagogic attempt to create a new consciousness, like Beuys did in 1977, time has changed and Maes steps directly into a survival topic: Humans need living bees to maintain a sustainable environment.
The commissioned version of ElbBienen is a bio-tech installation customized for public space in Hamburg. The ElbBienen-beehive will be populated with a living bee colony and the beehive will be installed on top of a pile mooring in the Elbe river at the Entenwerder Golden Pavilion. The beehive will remain on the spot for at least 1 bee-season (up to 16 months). The Golden Pavilion itself is an architectural artwork from the internationally acknowledged outdoor-exhibtion Skulptur Projekte in Münster, 2007. The transfer was made possible with public and private fundings. The new location in Hamburg is a place to be for visitors of the harbour, and stands in close view of the famous Elbphilharmonie at the river banks. There is a café visited by thousands of people during the year, even in winter times many visitors and ramblers are passing by. The location is ideal for the beehive-sculpture, because it will be noticed by a wide range of people besides the usual art-lovers. The ElbBienen project delivers new interfaces, some of them given form by sculptural handling with digital machines, for the needs of bees at the Elbe river-location. The production of the beehive will be realized in cooperation with the robotic woodcraft laboratory of Die Angewannte, Vienna.
For the first time in Maes’ career, and after more than ten years of artistic and proto-scientific research towards an organic beehive equipped with monitoring systems and enhanced with artificial intelligence, the outcome of this research will be presented in the urban public space. This is a big step for the artist insofar she addresses a much wider public, and she switches lab conditions for a natural environment in urban space.
Maes already observed the behaviour of a bee colony monitored with cameras, microphones and sensors in the protected conditions of her outdoor laboratory on the rooftop of her studio. In Hamburg, at the chosen location Entenwerder, the images of these observations will be streamed to flatscreens that are placed in the exhibition space of the Golden Pavilion. Artefacts, models and material studies relating to the different phases of research and development of the installation will be on show. As such, the public will be informed on the complexity of the installation. And moreover than displaying the local bee colony information, the flatscreens in the exhibition will also stream realtime images from a similar beehive in Brussels. As such the artist creates a juxtaposition of urban ecosystems in 2 European cities (Brussels and Hamburg), and these ecosystems are visualised and rendered by the behaviour of the 2 bee colonies. All this information can be witnessed by the public on site but also online. The sounds and images, as well as the sensordata collected in the urban environments around the beehives, will be visible in realtime on a webpage dedicated to the project. The artist gave this page the name Connected Open Greens.
ElbBienen: ein Dialog zwischen Elbe und Brüsseler Bienen
Die Elbbienen-Projekte überwachen die Entwicklung von zwei Bienenvölkern: die Bienen im Brüsseler städtischen Bee Lab (BuBL) und die Bienenkolonie im Entenwerder Park in Hamburg
concept of the artwork
The Intelligent Guerilla Beehive is a research project on the edge of art and science. It evokes issues of sustainability and biodiversity, giving viewers an artistic experience of my ongoing research related to the disappearance of the honeybee.
The goal of the Intelligent Beehive is a double one. At one hand it offers a safe refuge for city honeybees, and at the other hand is is a biosensor that interacts with the environment and that measures the pollution of the foraging fields around the beehive.
The commisioned version of the IGB (working title) is a bio-tech installation customized for public space in Hamburg. The IGB will be populated with a living bee colony and the beehive will be installed (with reservation) at the Entenwerder1 at the Golden Pavillion on the banks of the Elbe.
The IGB will remain on the spot for at least 1 bee-season (1 year). The behaviour of the bee colony will be monitored with a camera and the images will be streamed to a monitor that is placed in the exhibition displays (in the Golden Pavillion house). The conditions (Temperature and Humidity) in the bees’ habitat as well as outside in their foraging fields, will be recorded and the data will be streamed to and displayed in the exhibition. The beehive will act as a cradle to cradle device, meaning that it provides its own energy from solar panels placed on top of the beehive, and that it is made out of materials that are renewable. The solar energy will be stored in a battery before powering a microcomputer on which the camera and sensors are connected. A second (?) microcomputer will take care of the streaming of the camera- and sensordata.
The Golden Pavillion will host a small exhibition, where artifacts from different phases of the installation research will be displayed.
2 (online) Connected Open Greens
The synonyms for an OpenGreen are many: the experimental Hortus, the OpenAir Laboratorium, the Vivarium, the Kabinet of Wonders. But all OpenGreens are zones where culture and nature overlap and where these two enter into a symbiotic relationship with research and experimentation. In the OpenGreens, I document the beauty of nature in data. I classify and archive my notes and findings in OpenGreens databases. I compare and develop concepts, interpret complex biotic shapes and research repetitive natural patterns. I connect nature with bio-art.
The foraging areas of the honeybees are a fascinating research topic. Is it possible to reconstruct the bees’ flight routes over the city and map out their food sources? Their fast take-off from the landing platform gives us only a vague indication of the direction. Flying back on cloudy days, the small bodies struggle against headwinds and they persist to reach the hive before the rain bursts through the dark skies. Sometimes the bees just seem to be downy feathers carried by the wind streams.
exhibition in Golden Pavillion
The whole system (beehives on location, technical set-up, streaming and visualisation) must be robust and able to handle natural, social (bees&human) and technological interactions. Solar panels will provide the energy to power microcomputers that are handling the streaming of sound, images and and sensordata. The exhibition elements consist of a vitrine with information material, 3 monitors for online streaming from the beehives and data visualisations, 2 computers, speakers and microphones, printed matter, tableau of pictures and texts. A mediation program with guided tours and educational aspects for school classes of divers education systems are planned.
elements of the exhibition:
flatscreen streaming: bees from camera hive, Hamburg + Brussels
flatscreen sensors in hive and outside environment (temperature and humidity) Hamburg + Brussels
drawings, maquettes, models, tests - research on design beehive and production beehive
tests laser engraving outside hivebody + growth of algae, mosses and lichen on it + the importance of all this (pollution sensing)
foraging fields, plant samples, herbarium
books in context: Beuys Gesammkunstwerkt Hamburg, Maurice Maeterlinck (the life of the Bees), other books
location hunting Hamburg
6/11/2018: meeting in Hamburg with Dirck and Gunnar
Locationhunting in Hamburg. Discussions on Art in Public Space-program with Dirck (cfr. Beuys Gesamtkunstwerk Freie und Hansestadt Hamburg and bee-information with Gunnar.
We should make a decision asap in order to plan the wood-production part of the Beehive in February the latest (check Vienna, Barcelona, Hamburg, Brussels - possible production places).
After the wood production, there will still be a lot of arrangements to make for
1. the installation on the site and especially for
2. the technology-related stuff (solarpanels, battery’s etc… but also connection to internet/router/wifi/ screens/display/sound/ ….). And as last there will be
3. Make the installation with all the research material and than, as cherry on the cake:
4. the introduction of the bees in the hive, on Workers’ day - the fist of May.
Maybe we can ask Oliver to read out loud from his CD/books Das Kapital???? A performance?
meeting at Entenwerter dd. 27/2/2019
- Dirck: Follow up different production meetings, brassband, communication (posters, flyers)
- Gunnar: No time to be involved, but will deliver the bee swarm for the first of May
- Dodger: in contact with Guido Lucassen. Waiting for quote. Will work with 1 helper, on Tuesday 16/4.
Put ethernet cable, adjust streaming installation, mount sensors, store all electronics in waterproof boxes, car accu, solarpanel setup, …
- Mr. Bätjer: preparing the dalbes, put the hive with crane on top of the dalbes on 17/4. We start at 13pm. High water will be at 16pm. Welding the leg platforms to the dalbes.
Size leg platforms!!! Size solar panel !!!
- Carsten: Will take care of the bees. Put them in the hive on May 1st. Will build exhibition showcase.
⇒ ask also for welded structure for solar panel, in right solar angle (Hamburg Lattitude = ±53°, so top angle should be ± 30°)
- Golden Pavillion resp. (Alexandra, Jennifer, …): check if they will be involved in the inauguaration performance on May 1st
plants on location
Hamburg has a perfect digital service where you can see all trees in public space: strassenbaeume online. It is a perfect tool to find trees that bloom in spring and in autumn.
Bees after 1 season at Entenwerder
ElbBienen 1 year later. They survived winter well above the water! (photos Carsten Stöppler 2020 03 11).
ElbBienen on Entenwerter location in Hamburg, 1 year later ...
Entenwerder Hamburg. Taking off the bees in spring 2020
Imkern unter erschwerten Bedingungen, tideabhängig, bei Hochwasser geht's, bei Niedrigwasser wird's knapp. Die Leiter mussten wir mehrfach neu befestigen. Die Bienen haben ausgezeichnet überwintert. Die Kiste hat 35kg gewogen.
possible alternative titles
Das Bienenhaus auf dem Wasser
Connected Double Dance
Witnessed Double Dance
The honeybees' Double Dance
Waltzing Honeybees - der Walzer der Bienen
Bees on the Water
Elbbienen / Elbe Bees
Bienen an der Elbe / Bees on the Elbe
A dialogue: Elbbienen und Brüsselbienen
- D'Arcy Thompson: On Growth & Form
- The Social Behaviour of the Bees (Comparative Study) - Charles D. Michener
- Animal Architecture - Karl von Frisch
- Bee Democrcy - Thomas Seeley