Wednesday, 20 May 2009

In the Museum

There is usually a swarm, it follows the energy curfew. I tend to think of them as moths, drawn to one of the few illuminated buildings. All that warm, golden light seeping through the windows, flowing into the grey February afternoon, sweet, inviting and they enter in their droves.
The paintings always get the most people, all those Old Masters, famous scenes of distant days. My gallery late twentieth, early twenty first century isn’t that popular, there is nothing noble here, one installation, mostly found art. That said there is one attraction, they always stand in wonder, remembering. It is a very old mattress, looks like it came from a skip, stained, dirty. It is positioned on the floor like a frozen, falling wave and piercing the centre of the mattress, poking through a ragged hole is a shinning fluorescent tube. The light is soft, it quietly hums and people gaze at it and smile. All around the building are signs stating that all the energy for this museum is manufactured in photo voltaic cells on the roof and that this building has a minus energy rating.
No one stops at the installation-ever. I cannot help but look at it, it is in my eye line, a loop of film endlessly repeated. It begins with an establishing shot, an ordinary hive somewhere in the country. There is much coming and going in this opening sequence, drones return then leave, all is action, and the hive literally hums. The scene cuts to a series of clever fibre optic shots of the inside of the hive, we see the sheer physical effort required to produce honey. The contrast between this industry and the next frame is all the more startling. A medium shot of the hive entrance. There is no activity, we stare at the deserted entrance for a full five minutes, real time, there is a clock in the bottom right hand corner, and this is the only movement. There is a date as well-25.08.12. Then we are back inside, the queen is still alive, we can see the growing bees silhouetted in their cells and the larder appears well stocked, yet there are no adult bees. The fight is over, the drones are missing, awol. The installation ends with these shots of the hive, returns to the beginning. As I say no one ever stops to look.
If they did I could tell them what it’s all about. I did some homework on this one- it’s CCD; Colony Collapse Disorder. Even now after our own collapse there are experts in rooms arguing over the exact cause of the bees’ demise. From what I can gather the workers just stopped coming back to their home, sort of like those men you used to read about who just popped out for a packet of fags and were never seen again. The colony simply stops- it has a queen, sufficient reserves and an immature generation, but it just stops. Then it contracts and dies.
I think it is the opposite of our situation. The artist knew what was going on, what was already happening to the bees, so she holds a mirror up to us in this film loop. Everything is the wrong way round. The bees had sustainability but the workers gave up, or died or were confused by the signals from our mobile phones, or got slowly poisoned by the artificial fertilisers we threw at the soil or the insecticides we splashed around. Whatever. The colony ceases to be viable. We, on the other hand, have the workers, we have the desire, we do not have the resources, those we squandered in a two hundred and fifty year long party. Now we exist on the ruins.
But as I say no one ever stops by the screen, so I am as silent as the hive.

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