Spain (Vejer de la Frontera)
Beetime connects socially engaged art with natural beekeeping practices to bring together community, scientists and artists in their southern Spanish environment.
Honeybees pollinate about 35% of food, yet they are under threat from pesticides, diseases, habitat loss, invasive plants, lack of genetic diversity and climate change. Beetime has been exploring natural beekeeping practices as a starting point for understanding the dynamic networks of interactions between people, bees and the environment.
Beetime was established in 2015 by artist and natural beekeeper Karmit Even-Zur, creator and performing arts researcher Jorge Gallardo and multidisciplinary creator Polina Stoynova. The international team (hailing from the UK, Spain and Bulgaria) is informed by activist approaches and based on bee centred beekeeping (that prioritises and respects the bees’ natural way of living). As Jorge explains, the idea came out of the history and ecological reality of Vejer de la Frontera, which under Muslim rule was known as Vejer of Honey. This long history of apiculture was partly lost when large farms entered the region, but small land holders are bringing back the tradition. Through their research and projects, Beetime connects a range of communities, such as the local villagers, apiculturists, permaculturists, artists, scientists and school children.
Their artist residency programme, which had their 7th edition before the pandemic, invites international artists to spend time with the hives and study them. During the residency they connect with local producers through visits, open studio days and talks. But more importantly, spending time with the bees gives insight into social organisation and the way environments are connected. ‘As an inspiration method, it’s incredible,’ Jorge says. Artists learn from the way bees live and behave and by applying this to their work each artist ‘can deepen what [they learn] from the bees and incorporate it into their own creative practice’. Over the years Jorge has seen that ‘this way of relating to nature, through the intimate and the personal, tends to have a strong impact on the artistic practices of residents.’
But the residency programme is just the tip of the iceberg. Most of their work is rooted in the local landscape and its people. For example, through their ‘Apijanda’ learning community programme, Beetime works with local beekeepers and novices to share tips on ways to create strong colonies. The community gets together to discuss topics such as swarm collection, colony monitoring, treatment and management of hives. They also have round table discussions, training workshops and hive construction sessions.
Another recent project, BARBA-T, moves beyond the hives to examine their environment, specifically the local river Barbate. The project planned to spend three months in each of the seven villages on the river, talking to the older residents about their memories of place and conducting workshops with school children and scientists. Covid-19 has meant that they couldn’t do the initial phase of the project in person, but they connected the groups and discussions by collecting art, stories, information and videos on their online space and there are plans to continue their journey up the river.
At the heart of all of Beetime’s work is the connection between the bees, their environment, and the local communities, and they are driven by a belief in the power of local action. As Jorge says, ‘observe the relationships that exist – the beehive is exemplary to start working on this – and begin questioning how we can relate through the medium of the wildlife and how you can support regeneration processes of this wildlife.’ He highlights that this is urgent work, not just so that the landscape is beautiful, but also so that life on earth can thrive.
AtlasAction: Help out by taking care of the environment like a honeybee or buying food that is pesticide-free. You can also sign up to Beetime’s newsletter, ask about their upcoming artist residencies or be inspired by the artwork and stories on BARBA-T.
Claire is a writer, editor and researcher based in Barcelona, with a focus on arts, cultural diversity and creative expression for social change.
Karmit Even-Zur, Dr. Jorge Gallardo & Pol Parrhesia, Co-Founders
This project has been selected as part of CultureFutures, a storytelling project that maps creative and cultural projects with a social mission – and the artists, collectives and entrepreneurs behind them. Atlas of the Future is excited to join forces with Goldsmiths Institute of Creative and Cultural Entrepreneurship and the British Council Creative Economy.
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