Ed. Note: This post has been updated with the correct name of the artist. His name is Ren Yue, not Ren Ri.
Much like urban gardening, beekeeping seems to have inspired renewed interest among hobbyists around the world. Sure, it's got a certain appeal for DIYers who have graduated from pickling and homebrewing, but its also got the ecological upshot as a response to the precipitous decline in the global bee population (we've previously seen a design solution that addresses the issue scientifically known as Colony Collapse Disorder, which was the subject of a recent Op-Ed in the Times). Ren Yue is a Beijing-based bee enthusiast who falls into that beekeeper population, but he's also an artist—and it's safe to say that he's not your average honey harvester.
Ren started studying honeybees back in 2008. After a couple of years spent learning the art of beekeeping and observing how the hives function, he developed a strategy that turns the hive's beeswax into semi-calculated sculptures. Ren lets nature run its course for a large part of the second installment of the series, titled "Yuansu II," but does provide a few prefabricated touches of his own—plastic vessels to house the hives and a weekly 'rotation' schedule for the constructions.
By housing the queen bee in the center of each structure, Ren was able to 'engineer' the architecture of the hive: Worker bees naturally began to build out from her location in all directions, leaving a waxy hexagonal structure in their wake. He rotated the plastic cases every seven days—a biblical reference—to give the queen and her workers a new center of gravity to work from, resulting in an undulating final form. Ren never planned which way to turn the sculptures—a roll of the dice made that decision, introducing a nice touch of spontaneity to a highly ordered process of nature.
Ren debuted his beeswax art in 2010 with "Yuansu I: The Origin of Geometry," a series of maps featuring wax molds as the landmasses (pictured below). After "Yuansu II," Ren continued the series with "Yuansu III"—a performance piece where the artist actually forces bees to sting his face in an attempt to illustrate the relationship between humans and nature. Uh-huh. We'll stick to the less painful I and II.
Ren Ri and pieces from "Yuansu 1: The Origin of Geometry" (left) and his exhibited work (right)
You can catch "Yuansu II" on display at Hangzhou's T Museum until August 7.
Via Cool Hunting