Collaborators Stanislava Pinchuk (Miso) + Nic Dowse
"My Grandad had bees, he had five hives. Well, for three days they wouldn’t fly out, not one bee. They were sitting in the hives. Waiting it out. My grandad was running about the yard: what kind of disaster was this? What the Devil was up? Something had gone wrong with nature. And as our neighbour, who’s a teacher, explained to us, their system is cleverer than ours, because they feel it right away. The radio and papers still weren’t saying anything, but the bees knew. They only flew out in the fourth day."
Chernobyl Prayer, Svetlana Alexievic
Stanislava Pinchuk first got in touch when she was researching the impact of radiation of honeybee colonies for her ambitious → Sarcophagus project.
The work – her largest tapestry to date; a 6 metre piece representing topographical data mapping of radioactivity levels in the Chernobyl Nuclear Exclusion Zone – is both beautiful and chilling. This piece is also a study of her knowledge of beekeeping in the zone: thousands of pinholes in paper with each end of the long work revealing a pattern beekeepers know very well: tessellated honeycomb, gently rising and falling. But in Stanislava’s work the honeycomb appears, disappears, decays, threads out – and tells the story of a topography of human disaster. Stanislava has this knowledge of, and deep interest in, bees and bee culture because her people were beekeepers – both sides of father’s family were beekeepers: her Grandfather was a beekeeper in Ukraine, her father was a beekeeper too (and her mother’s family were lacemakers, which explains the interest with lace).
Unsurprisingly, Stanislava knew much more about the subject of radioactivity and bees than me. She pointed me in the direction of Belarusian Svetlana Alexievic’s Chernobyl Prayer → Chernobyl Prayer by Svetlana Alexievich, a text that won the Nobel Prize in 2015 and changed the way I thought about the Chernobyl disaster – and its impact on all the lands and people around around it – forever. It is also one of those books you read and realise that the literary world has just shifted on its axis. Nothing I have read captures the polyphonic voice of a people – a folk – so simply and strongly as Chernobyl Prayer. It is a game-changer.
Stanislava also loved the images of the petroglyphs – ancient cave art in Morocco and South Africa – that popped up on the → Honey Fingers Instagram from time to time.
These studies of marks made by humans, thousands of years ago, are a recurring theme in the work of the Honey Fingers studio and Temple, in many ways, is a nod to them. The Instagram posts are edits of the excellent research by Dr. Eva Crane in her publication: The Rock Art of Honey Hunters (2001). Crane’s work demonstrates that humans have been inspired by bees to make art for tens of thousands of years. Her research also talks to the fact that humans have been preoccupied with the pattern of honeycomb, and honeycomb attached to unexpected things, for a very, very long time.
So when the thought of mark-making on my own skin popped up one day – a little echo of this much older tradition – it made sense to approach Stanislava to see if she was interested in tattooing me. Stanislava trades tattoos for things – art, drawings, dinner. It’s not a commercial thing, or an art thing. I asked if she would trade a tattoo for a frame of honeycomb. She said yes and we robbed the bees together, ate some fresh comb with bread and butter, sat down in front of Temple and she made the marks on my forearm - - - - - that represent the catenary curves of honeycomb - - - - - - that humans have been copying forever - - - - Thank you Stanislava : ) - - - - - -
Petroglyph Botha's Shelter, Cathedral Peak State Forest, South Africa