Bees, Art, Action


The artist Terence Koh recently installed a single-occupancy “bee chapel” upstate, left; at right, the chapel has been reconstructed in a modified form at Andrew Edlin Gallery on the Bowery.Credit From left: Stewart Shining; Olya Vysotskaya

The New York Times has a story currently that would interest anyone aware of the crisis related to bees and other pollinators; it helps if you also see art as a worthy tool of engagement for addressing complex major challenges facing the planet, and humanity; have a read either way:

An Art World Provocateur Returns to New York With an Unexpected Subject: Bees


“Good afternoon,” the elusive artist Terence Koh said over the phone earlier this week. He’d called to discuss his new show, which opened at Andrew Edlin Gallery over the weekend. “I’m inside the bee chapel. I’m lying down and looking straight up at the ceiling. They’re really busy today because it’s sunny.”

The Beijing-born, Canadian-raised enfant terrible was once the poster boy of aughts excess — a decade ago, he gold-plated his own feces and sold them at Art Basel for about a half-million dollars; he also once, rather infamously, told T, “I am the Naomi Campbell of the art world.” But the past few years have brought a different turn: He discontinued his gallery representations and, in 2014, moved to a mountaintop in the Catskills. The relocation was widely construed as a ceremonial retirement of sorts, but Koh insists the opposite: “I never had any intention of quitting the art world, I just moved to a different part of the world,” he says. “It was something that happened naturally.” He has since lived peacefully in what he describes as a personal Eden dusted with goldenrod and apple trees. In the branches of one, he built a hut and called it a “bee chapel,” which would become the titular heart of his new exhibition.


At the gallery, the bees are separated from visitors who enter the chapel by steel mesh, and can fly outside to gather pollen via plastic tubes. CreditOlya Vysotskaya

News of Edlin’s move to a new address pregnant with Manhattan symbolism, 212 Bowery, inspired Koh to reach out in hopes of bringing the chapel — a human-scale hive of sorts, made of wood and wax, with a door to let in a single viewer at a time — to the city. “I emailed Andrew about three times and he ignored me. He didn’t know who I was because he specialized in outsider art,” Koh says. Last autumn, Edlin visited Koh’s farm with his wife and daughter, and come spring, people were buzzing about Koh’s return to downtown.

Outside the gallery sit solar panels that power the show; inside, there are seven rooms built to represent the days of the week, each lined with a flooring of raw earth trucked in from New Jersey. While honeybees are in fact quite docile creatures, for the safety of litigious Manhattanites, there is a metal mesh physically separating humans and insects inside the chapel itself. The bees occupy a one-and-a-half inch crawl space between the interior chamber and its walls, known to beekeepers as “bee space.” “You can see them through the mesh and you can smell them and they’re dropping pollen at you. The hive pretty much vibrates as well,” Koh says. “The idea is I want to be able to resonate with the bees at the same time as the bees are resonating with us.”…

Read the whole article here.

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