Buzzing with activity

Sally Cole
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Pan Wendt looks at Helmet, one of the everyday objects that the bees have covered with wax and honeycomb. It’s one of the pieces in Aganetha Dyck: Guest Workers a show about the collaboration between the artist and bees. Wendt is the curator for the show that runs until Oct. 16.

Art galleries are usually quiet places where people can escape from their hectic lives, for an hour or so while they soak up the latest exhibit.

But that’s not so true at the Confederation Centre Art Gallery and Museum this summer.

In the upper gallery, visitors are welcomed by a humming sound as honeybees come and go from their hive, which is connected to the outside world through a Plexiglas tube.

“Listen closely to the air holes at the bottom of the hive and you will hear the buzzing of 30,000 bees,’’ says Pan Wendt, curator of Aganetha Dyck: Guest Workers, an exhibition that showcases the sculptural and two-dimensional work based on collaboration between the artist and honeybees.

As visitors listen, he explains that while the bees can be seen and heard the hive is sealed and safe for public viewing.

“No bees will get out,” says Wendt, adding he’s thrilled with the buzz that the show is making.

In a Plexiglas box (above the hive) is a lobster trap where it is hoped that the bees will begin making honeycomb — and a new piece of art — after their own beehive is filled with honey.

“We literally have guests living and working in the gallery,” Wendt says.

The show is the brainchild of Dyck, a Governor General’s Award-winning artist from Winnipeg who has spent the past three decades involved in what she calls “inter-species communication” with honeybees.

“Although small they’re powerful. Bees have the power to sting you, but they also have the power to keep us alive because they pollinate two-thirds of the food we see in our grocery store,” says the artist, during a telephone interview.

Her artwork for the exhibition is actually created on site as she allows bees to alter her own pieces (drawings and sculptures) by chewing them or covering them with honeycomb and beeswax. She also provides the bees with everyday objects ranging from footwear to football helmets. Whatever happens next is up the bees.

“This all started when I discovered that bees were sculptors. I’m a sculptor, too, so I thought it would be fascinating to work with them,” says Dyck.

In the gallery, the results of their collaboration are everywhere.

In Closest to Her, which was created before the Charlottetown exhibition, the bees have covered a porcelain figurine with wax and honeycomb, leaving only the woman’s hand and bodice untouched.

In Drawing of a Bee after Dr. E. Assmuss, from the Hive collection, the bees have added colour and texture to her pen and ink illustration.

Dyck says she doesn’t mind giving up her art to bees.

“Sometimes I will put an object into the hive and give it a time limit to see what will happen. 



Organizations: Confederation Centre Art Gallery and Museum, Department of Agriculture

Geographic location: Winnipeg, Canada, Charlottetown

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