The Town of Krk: 12 – 31 May 2023
All Connected – The Golden Island 2023, multimedia art exhibition by the German visual artist Bärbel Rothhaar
Working hours: Mon. – Sut. 10.00 am – 12.00 am; 06.00 – 09.00 pm
Exhibition opening: 12 May, at 08.00 pm
Organizer: Center for Culture of Krk
Throughout the human history bees have been used as frequent motifs in carvings, cave drawings, jewelry, paintings, sculptures, poetry and myths. Furthermore, beeswax, honey, and even bees themselves, have been used in the process of art making (one of the most famous examples being encaustic, the ancient technique of painting with wax). The artistic practice of the Berlin-based artist Bärbel Rothhaar, goes a step further: living bees collaborate with the author thus becoming sculptors and turning the hive into an artistic studio of sorts. Rothhaar is part of a growing group of artists from around the world who work with bees. Honey bees participate in live performances while transforming objects into unique art pieces. These interspecies collaborations emerge from the cultural context marked by the increasingly serious issue of bee population decline. In the long term, our eco-system is unsustainable without bees as the key factor in the food production chain. Bärbel Rothhaar’s art is embedded in this time and age of raising environmental awareness. Her cross-genre corpus of work combines portraiture, drawing, installations, sculpture and photography.
Rothhaar uses the bees’ talent for constructing uniform hexagonal structures and their incredible ability to adapt to the demands of the environment, which allows them to build combs on different materials and objects. The artist puts palm-sized wax portraits of beekeepers inside the beehive and enables the bees to build on them and transform the highly realistic and expressive sculptures with strong psychological characteristics into completely new and unpredictable creations. The author works with tens of thousands of bees that live and work inside the hive during the creation of the “api-sculpture”. The process lasts for several days or even weeks, then the combs get removed and placed in exhibition frames. The results are intriguing, whimsical, astonishing and somewhat surreal. The impression is further intensified once the viewer learns that an insect was involved in the art process. The author is leaving the finalization of the artwork to chance and not trying to change the way it is developing thus intentionally accepting natural processes in the environment that are often unpredictable and fluctuating. Open processes, i.e. processes that do not have a defined end, became part of the artist’s conceptual approach to art, which she calls “a redefinition of naturalism”.
The photographs of the process itself showing human portraits covered with bees have an extremely strong and slightly disturbing effect, because they evoke the primordial human fear of insects that can potentially harm us. The works address human place in the world and question our relationship with nature, which, like the author’s creative process, simultaneously includes harmony, destruction, shaping and intervention.
The paintings of portraits made by the “bee camera” further emphasize Rothhaar’s activistic and educational approach to art. Using 4.000 straws, the author made a special lens that gives us a general insight into the bee’s eyesight and perception of the world all the while encouraging the viewer’s reflection on the subjectivity of the anthropocentric visual experience of the world. Bärbel uses the photographs taken by the bee camera as templates for paintings on canvas, attaining results similar to the painters of photorealism, such as Chuck Close. While trying to understand how the bee experiences and sees the world, Bärbel Rothhaar offers viewers a unique aesthetic experience and motivation to further study these fascinating and ecologically essential creatures.
The reciprocal relationship between artists and bees in contemporary art erases boundaries between science and art, artistic intention and instinct, subject and object. Numerous environmental issues, new scientific discoveries, practices and different fields of research come together. The use of animals in art raises questions about bioethics in terms of expressing human supremacy over the animal world. In the case of Bärbel Rothhaar, one can read an extreme respect for the insect; the interventions are non-invasive and harmless to the bees. The artist’s work provides an opportunity to get to know the animal in order to reflect on the mutual aesthetic, cultural, biological and ecological connections. The collaboration between nature and human creativity communicates many different aesthetic and educational concepts about the fascinating life of bees and their role in the environment and the interconnectedness and interdependence of all living beings. (Bruna Kocijan)