25 Apr Bees Making Honey – Peter Coffin
In Spring 2012 the Storm King Art Center, an outdoor environmental sculpture park north of New York City, exhibited artist Peter Coffin’s “Untitled (Bees Making Honey)”, a seasonal site-specific sculpture consisting of a colony of bees tended by a professional beekeeper, where the bees are the art, and the exhibition is framed as an opportunity to learn about bees.
Peter Coffin discusses his work Untitled (Bees Making Honey) 2012, on view in Storm King’s South Fields. Film by Kate Barker-Froyland.
Coffin’s apiary was presented as a natural artwork, albeit directed by human intent and couched within a very specific thematic exhibition on light. Storm King’s website emphasizes the legitimacy of Coffin’s hives as artwork, its function within the local ecology, and the interactive nature of the bees as highly performative:
“Peter Coffin’s practice involves working with familiar things — here, the sun, bees, and honey — to see them anew. That these small colonies also rely on the sun is a reminder of the sun’s omnipotence. Tour participants will receive a gift of local honey: a proposed answer to the whimsical question, ” What does light taste like?”… The park typically shows over sized sculpture by artists past and present. Coffin’s innovative “Untitled (Bees Making Honey)” is not only an artwork but also adds to the natural ecosystem of the park, which is set on 500 acres of landscaped fields, hills and woodlands. Coffin’s piece will interact with the art center, as his bees thrive on its plants and flowers.”
The significance of bees as a species is framed around the import of sunlight and a professional beekeeper leads weekly tours, “educating participants about honeybees and their dependence on the sun for communication and survival.” Coffin does not tend or cultivate the colony/installation per se, instead relying on experienced beekeepers. Regardless, the living sculpture functions both discursively and materially, as the bees pollinate the park’s plants and “interact” with visitors and other sculptures.
This article quotes the work of Mary Kosut and Luisa Jean Moore–“Bees Making Art: Insect Aesthetics and the Ecological Moment”.