Bees 'n Trees

The exhibition series GUARDIANS examines the influence of humans on the biodiversity that surrounds us. This second part looks at what we extract from nature. With both plants and animals, the preservation of biodiversity is under pressure. Chemical contamination is causing the seedbed for flora and fauna to disappear. Economic exploitation of the land is resulting in deforestation. These and other causes mean that an untouched natural ecosystem is now nowhere to be found. This is exposed in the exhibition BEES ’n TREES by way of two specific species: bees and trees.


Nina Kopp (Germany) – Treasure of the Bee

Without bees our lives would look completely different. Around a third of our food production is made possible by bees; many types of fruit and vegetables wouldn’t exist without them. This project depicts all the things we would be missing without these hard workers. Still lives from the Golden Age, an era of abundance, are given a photographic reinterpretation, erasing all the products that bees are responsible for. They are empty and out of balance. The still lives thus symbolise a damaged ecosystem. A separate beehive shows images of the products that have been excluded.

Anne Noble (New Zeeland) - Singing with the Bees

Anne Noble’s engagement with the fate of bees has a personal touch: she is a beekeeper herself. Her work is dedicated to ecological engagement and she has made various series centred on honeybees. Life and death coincide in photograms, which she creates by exposing the wings of dead bees on a roll of film she holds in her hand. In a ‘portrait series’ she uses an electron microscope to sense the delicate surfaces of the tiny animals, like a museological recollection of a lost species. And in a video, they float endlessly through the image, an effect that is reinforced by merging the sound of buzzing with Georgian song.

Emma Powell (United States) – An Elegy for the Honeybee

In ancient cultures, bees were already a symbol of immortality and resurrection. People have cared for bees for years, but nowadays the animals are endangered. Because the demand for food is growing faster than the bee population, entire colonies are transported across great distances so that they can be utilised optimally each season. This creates stress and susceptibility to diseases. Problems that exacerbate this include the use of pesticides and farming with monocultures, whereby fields are left bare outside of the growing season. The result iscolony collapse disorder, entire bee colonies which suddenly disintegrate. An Elegy for the Honeybee is a lament for the bee, using historical photographic processes.


Pedro David (Brazil) - Hardwood

International state-owned companies purchase large plots of land and remove the existing vegetation and forests. Instead a monoculture of eucalyptus trees is planted. These are profitable for industry as a fast-growing tree that is turned into charcoal, an important ingredient for processing iron ore into steel. The eucalyptus is a demanding tree, drawing all the water and nutrients from the soil. Once the original flora is lost, the fauna also takes leave. What remains is a green desert, in which only an individual defies suppression.


David Ellingsen (Canada) – The Last Stand

The members of Ellingsen’s family have worked in the logging industry for generations. The tree stumps we see in the photographs are situated on the family’s land, the trees have been cut down by hand by the family. The photographer literally grew up in the woods and experienced his first walk alone, aged six or seven, as a fearful encounter with tree stumps that looked like skulls. His portraits of tree stumps commemorate and embody the old woods, which are gradually disappearing under new growth. It serves as a warning for perpetual logging, occurring all around the world, in the pursuit of profit.


Ilkka Halso (Finland) - Naturale & Tree Works

Man has made a habit out of moulding nature, justified by aesthetic and economic motives. But there are limits to what nature can endure. Halso’s work exposes the control over nature. In his photographs, trees are scaffolds; an absurd commentary on man wanting to preserve what he destroys. In other images, nature is stored in a warehouse, like neat, easy-to-use components. Here soil, flora and fauna are waiting to be assembled into new ecosystems. Is nature protected in anticipation of better times? Or exploited like bite-size commodities?

The exhibitions Guardians I & II can be visited until september 3 at Natuurmuseum Fryslân.
Natuurmuseum Friesland, Schoenmakersperk  2 te Leeuwarden.