This large-scale installation artwork is a reference to the pre-modern belief that honeybees were spontaneously generated from cattle bodies in a vicious ritual called ‘bougonia.’ The literal and symbolic act of killing and burying cattle to repopulate mass honeybee losses appears throughout the ages in countries across Africa, Europe, and Asia. These ideas resonate in the present as we encounter similar anxieties around dwindling bee populations and unethical animal husbandry practices in industrial farming.        
  Twelve cells of the installation are filled with white sugar, the thirteenth with cattle bone char. In most refining plants, sugar is stripped of its colour when filtered through fragments of burnt cattle bone. Interestingly, this char is the primary pigment in ivory black (or bone black) paint, used in the series of abstract paintings showcased in the adjacent gallery. The skulls in the installation buzz with the sounds of honeybees living in the University’s on-site apiary; the din is punctured by the distant wail of spectral cattle, recorded in the fields of nearby farms. 
3037_aggSWANSON_088.jpg
3037_aggSWANSON_101.jpg
  Human participants move through the installation as if they were traversing both an industrial farming operation and circumabmulating a ritual space. Visitors unwittingly perform the honeybee 'waggle dance' a non-auditory form of communication between insects that redirects swarms to new sites for habitation.     
3037_aggSWANSON_100.jpg
3037_aggSWANSON_094.jpg
3037_aggSWANSON_095.jpg
3037_aggSWANSON_103.jpg
3037_aggSWANSON_090.jpg
3037_aggSWANSON_102.jpg
  All sugar from the installation was reclaimed and donated to the Honeybee Research Centre at the University of Guelph to support the living hives at the apiary.
prev / next