See the present through the past. Both the light-bending and preserving properties of amber symbolise for me the tool with which nature fights a transient world, evolution. The light-bending property of 20 million year old amber provide an alternative view of present days bees by physically deforming the image of a living colony of bees, ‘evolving’ them, while the preserving property of amber shows the trapped ‘un-evolved’ ancestral bee. Through these properties I feel a glimpse of the true shape of the bee.
To me this shows nature’s genius at its work, preserving organic matter, fighting time through antibiotics, time-capsules and evolution.
Douglas-fir is known for its high contents of resinous tree sap, harvested and used by bees to make their own antibiotics: propolis. Due to it’s sticky nature bees tend to get trapped in this resin from time to time and over time in the right circumstances this resin will turn into copal and finally into amber.
Amber is one of nature’s most effective time capsules, a beautiful way to protect/conserve but with flaws. Which brings us to the title of this work, the essence of beeing. Since nature can’t conserve an individual good enough to conquer time it has developed reproduction, which is (at least for the bee).. the essence of beeing.
The front of this work features my vision about how the damaged DNA inside the amber would look like using wood, veneer and amber. From the inside the work will be able to light up and cast shadows of the bees on the veneer and the 20 million year old amber, which in turn will give you the ability to observe today through the past.
On a bee enclosed in amber. The bee is enclosed, and shines preserved, in a tear of the sisters of Phaeton, so that it seems enshrined in its own nectar. It has obtained a worthy reward for its great toils; we may suppose that the bee itself would have desired such a death. (Martial, Epigrams. Book 4. Bohn’s Classical Library (1897))
Measurements: 1,618m x 1,00m x 0,125m, these measurements are based on Fibonacci numbers which occur in the pattern of ancestry for a common bee.
Materials: I used Douglas-fir for its high content of tree resin. For millions of years bees have, in the act of harvesting this resin, been trapped in it, resulting in copal and amber with inclusions of bees found all over the world. I shaped the Douglas-fir according to the shapes of the copal and amber which I used. The copal and amber are from several locations, mostly Columbia, Kenya, Madagascar and Borneo, these pieces date from the Pleistocene (approx. 10K years old), Miocene (approx. 15/20M years old) and Eocene (approx. 40/50M years old) and are loaded with inclusions from a lot of different species.
Through this amber/copal you can see the bees, they are deformed by the way light reacts with the amber, but there also is a second way to observe the bees. Since DNA is a double helix I decided to introduce a second material. For this I used veneer, a special kind of Mappa burl veneer which forms a perfect combination with the Douglas-fir and which gives us a view of the shadow-world of the bees. The combination of these two different materials for the DNA provide us, when the lights are on, with the illusion of a three dimensional broken string of DNA.
The bees are from the Carniolan honey bee-tree (Dutch), which are known for their piecfull nature. This is achieved through centuries of cultivating these bees by the bee-keeper. Due to this you can open the installation without more than a dozen of bees getting out.