Apian

Since 2014, the do-it-yourself humanities research project called ‘Apian’ has followed an ongoing and open-ended research which explores the age-old interspecies relationship of honeybees1 to humans and humans to honeybees2. The ethnography considers the relationships that already exist and the ones which are yet to be invented. Combining an anthropological approach and the practice of art and beekeeping, Apian investigates contact zones where humans and honeybees meet. The research project looks at how both species make and infect each other through ecological, social, historical, cultural, philosophical and aesthetical encounters. The research does not see bees as a metaphor, or as bridge to reconnect humans with Nature3, but as an active subject with which we have to collaborate. Bees pollinate up to three quarters of all food crops4, hence their importance in the web of life in which we are all entangled5. ‘Apian’ consists of multiple fragments that are at the same time autonomous and related to one another. Once reunited, they assemble a sort of narrative universe which aims to create and reconstitute refugia6, places of refuge, for beekeepers, scholars and honeybees – where translation between different sensoria becomes possible, spaces where we can think together. The results are polymorphous ethnographies which mix different media such as text, photography, sound and video. In other words, it creates a machine that enables humans to feel and to explore the links that have been woven between honeybees and humans over centuries. It also offers the possibility of caring without touching or disturbing: an ‘intimacy without proximity’7. It is not solely about creating knowledge; it also aims to stimulate aesthetic, cultural, and trans-species encounters in order to fight back, in alliance with honeybees, against the blinding idea of human exceptionalism. ‘Apian’ spans different fields. For example, it has been presented in an artistic context at the Festival Circulation(s) in Paris at the 104 (2015); twice during the Swiss federal design awards (2015/2018); in anthropological form during the ASA conference at the University of Oxford (2018); at the 2019 CTM festival in Berlin; and is being developed through a residency programme at La Becque, Switzerland (2019). In partnership with La Becque (2019-2020), a radio show is being created which tackles this interspecies relationship. ‘Apian’ also aims to be collaborative and has been a site for meeting around shared sensibilities, for example with Randolf Menzel, the artist Laurent Güdel and Ellen Lapper. Ultimately, this is also a call for future exchanges and collaborations. For a portfolio or further information, please do not hesitate to get in contact.

[1]But why bees? From a personal note, I learnt beekeeping by following in the footsteps of my grandfather and nowadays I try to practice it as much as possible.

[2]By honeybees I mean a few different species such as Apis melifer melifera, Apis carnica and so on. These are the so called ‘social bees species’. With the focus on these specific ‘social’ bees, I do not attempt to avoid the importance of the thousand of other species that are highly important for our world. However, for research purposes, I have narrowed down the spectrum.

[3]Using the world of Timothy Morton: ‘I capitalize Nature to de-nature it, like frying an egg, revealing its artificial constructedness and explosive wholeness.’ ((2019). ‘Humankind: Solidarity with Nonhuman People’. Verso, London - New York ; 3)

[4]www.theguardian.com (accessed July 20, 2019)

[5] Of course bees and humans are entangled in a larger multispecies community which seeps into the project from time to time. However, to use the words of Van Dooren, I do firmly believe that: ‘In this context, it does not seem to be enough to say that ‘we are all bound up in a relationship of dependance in a multispecies world.’ The brand of holistic ecological philosophy that emphasises that ‘everything is connected to everything’ will not help us here. Rather, everything is connected to something, which is connected to something else (Rose 2008:56). While we may all ultimately be connected to one another, the specificity and proximity of connections matter–who we are bound up with and in what ways.’ (van Dooren, Thom. 2014 (2016). ‘Flight Ways: Life and loss at the edge of extinction.’ Columbia University Press; 60) (Rose, Deborah Bird. 2008. ‘Judas Work: Four Modes of Sorrow.’ Environmental Philosophy 5, no. 2:51-66)

[6] By refugia, I mean the plural of refugium in the biological sense: a location which offers shelter for endangered species (Wikipedia). According to Anna Tsing the Holocene was the period of refugia and the Anthropocene is the period that has destroyed those vital places. In the words of Donna Haraway about Tsing: ‘A Threat to Holocene Resurgence Is a Threat to Livability. Tsing argues that the Holocene was, and still is in some places, the long period when refugia, places of refuges, still existed, even abounded, to sustain reworlding in rich, cultural and biological diversity after tremendous disturbance. Perhaps the outrage meriting a name like Anthropocene is about the destruction of places and times of refuge for people and other critters. My Chthulucene, even burdened with its problematic Greek-ish tendrils, entangles myriad temporalities and spatialities and diverse intra-active entities in-assemblages–including the more-than-human, other-than-human, inhuman, and humas-as-humus. The symchthonic ones are not extinct, but they are mortal. One way to live and die well as mortal critters in the Chthulucene is to join forces to reconstitute refuges, to make possible partial and robust biological-cultural-political-technological recuperation and recomposition, which must include mourning irreversible losses.’ (Haraway, Donna. 2016. ‘Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene’. Duke University Press, Durham and London ; 192)

[7] I borrowed these words from Jacob Melcaf: (2008. ’Intimacy without Proximity: Encountering Grizzlies as a Companion Species.’ Environmental Philosophy 5 (2), 99-128.