June 2, 2007
Live-In Hive (1976) by Mark Thompson
Above you will see LIVE-IN HIVE by Mark Thompson (begun in 1976), a very complex and ambitious proposal by means of which the artist wanted to experience life on the inside of a colony of bees for real. The project consisted of the construction of a cubic beehive made of glass fitted with a wire netting tube through which the bees could enter and leave, and a larger aperture at the base. This was for the performer to put his head through and so experience (see and above all hear) the hundreds of insects working all around him. The idea was to live like this for three weeks, sitting on a special chair (with a hole in it for waste matter), being fed by means of a system of tubes delivering high protein liquids and water straight to his mouth. Thompson worked out the project and thought of the possibility of having the body floating in a saline solution instead of in a seated position, but none of his plans worked out. Three weeks is too long a time: the project seemed to be very dangerous, and in all probability, if the plan had been carried through, the bees would have attempted to expel the intruder by covering him with propolis (as they usually do with the bodies of careless, scavenging mice that the bees sting to death).
But he did try it for short periods, and some blood-chilling photographs of what happened survive. Thompson made a film, also unfinished, which he called Immersion (1977-78). The film was speeded up or slowed down at various moments so that the buzzing and swarming of the bees could be manipulated like another piece of artistic material.
The implications of this work are considerable. Here it is important that the observer be seen from outside (by a cine-camera, for instance). We could speak of a total panopticon (or rather a reversible one): we spectators are invited to see and experience what is seen and experienced by the artist inside the beehive, with whom, inevitably, we identify. But the justification for everything must be more metaphysical. Why would anyone want to live in a beehive if not for the traditional positive connotations of this society within the animal kingdom? Bees associate with the sun and gather food from the reproductive organs of plants: to enter into their habitat, to put the brain of the artist-beekeeper into physical contact with the heart of the swarm, is to delve into the most secret mysteries of life........a living utopia.
above excerpt taken from The Beehive Metaphor (from Gaudi to Le Corbusier) by Juan Antonio Ramirez pp. 87-88