Imagine standing in a meadow. Grass shoots up from the ground around you, tickling your ankles. In every direction, flowers of brilliant reds, purples, blues, yellows and whites are sprinkled over a blanket of green. The flowers bow with grace as a light breeze passes you. You hear chirping birds, rustling leaves and a low buzz. This buzz is the sound of one of nature’s busiest workers—the bee.
When artist Wolfgang Buttress was conceptualizing a piece for Expo 2015 in Milan, themed “Feeding the Planet: Energy for Life,” he was inspired by the little buzzing pollinators and created The Hive. This sculpture is a 56-foot tower of metal and electricity that acts as a testament to a fascinating creature.
The Hive has recently been moved to the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, in London; it will be open to the public until the end of 2017. There, guests can pass through a wildflower meadow and enter the lattice-like metal structure—evocative of the honeycomb design of a beehive—and watch as 1,000 LEDs flicker in response to the real-time action taking place in an actual nearby beehive. This hive is outfitted with tiny vibration sensors called accelerometers that pick up minute vibrations from the movement within the hive. The information is then sent to The Hive. When the bees are sleepy, the lights flicker less, but when they’re active, the lights come to life in a flickering frenzy.
Beneath the structure there are metal bone conductors that can convert sound to vibrations. Guests who have been given wooden sticks can touch the sticks to the bone conductors and feel the vibrations in their heads. As scientists have recently discovered, it is through vibrations like these that bees communicate—unbeelievable, right?
The Hive also features a special soundtrack recorded by a group of musicians called Be. Their music—which features string instruments, vocals and piano—is integrated with the sound of a beehive. Within The Hive, the music is selected to match the intensity of the bee activity, completing the experience. Occasionally, the musicians have played a live collaboration with their buzzing buddies.
On its own, the sculpture is an exceptional piece of art. But with its many interactive aspects, The Hive is a truly unique experience. Check out The Hive in action here. It’s beeutiful!
Did You Know?
After a bee locates a source of pollen, it returns to the hive and performs a special kind of communication through movement: the waggle dance. The waggle can be used to show other bees in the hive what direction the food is in, how far it is and what kind of pollen is there.