Friday, 19 August 2011

a field student of explanations


As Field Study’s Man in E17 I am reporting, with some disappointment, my honey harvest this year is relatively meagre. I and fellow beekeepers managed to harvest c. 65Ib from the two hives/colonies in our apiary. We will have to compare yields from other apiaries to see if there is something peculiar to our beekeeping to explain our poor yield. Last year we harvested nearly 120Ib from one hive in the same allotment apiary; a quite spectacular yield. I can happily report the flavour of this year’s honey is much richer.

This year’s yield split 3 ways gives Field Study’s Man this supply of honey for the coming year.


Some of the jars will be given away as gifts, some kept for my own sweet tooth and the surplus (abiding by allotment rules) sold via Organiclea’s local produce stall at the Hornbeam on Hoe Street. Ru Litherland, sage and wise elder berry of Hawkwood, has recently espoused the conviviality of Organiclea’s genuinely local food stalls.  The honey will go on sale on the first Saturday of the E17 Art Trail. If previous years are anything to go by the honey will sell quickly. I have been told other beekeepers may sell honey from that stall.




The jars of honey will be part of, ‘Field Studies in Progress’, my contribution to ‘Here Local Further Afield’; Hornbeam’s group exhibition for this year’s E17 Art Trail. There might be a beeswax/honeycomb sculpture to see, made by the bees from all the wax capping removed from the honeycomb during the honey extraction. While beekeeping is or has an art in its own right I have been thinking about how and why (other) artists have created art with and about honey and other bee materials. 
Chief among these honey artists is Joseph Beuys. Honey was a principle material in his art works - often expressed in the form of shamanic like performances or rituals. Beuys’ use of honey was informed in part by the anthroposophical ideas of Rudolf Steiner relating to learning, healing and community.

The appearance of the hare in this year’s art trail trope prompted me to think of a particular performance by Joseph Beuys. 

In November 1965 (a month before I was born) Joseph Beuys performed, ‘How to Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare’ at the Schmela Gallery in Dusseldorf. He anointed his head with honey, onto which he stuck gold leaf. Having strapped a piece of iron to one of his booted feet, he cradled a dead hare in his arms and whispered into its ears - ‘explanations’ about a variety of pictures displayed around the gallery. At times he may have walked ‘clunkily’ around the gallery to develop his explanations of the pictures and so develop the dead hares understanding. Twenty years or so later I became aware of this performance and I was (rightly?) baffled, intrigued and perplexed by it. What sort of lunacy could this be? What specious explanations or analysis could be given for the artist’s ‘action’ let alone those given to the hare? Of course I was only there in gestational spirit and never got to witness in the flesh, (honey and gold leaf) any of Joseph Beuys’ live performances. I wish I had.
Some serious international artists of repute have re-enacted Joseph Beuys performances - Marina Abramovic amongst them. It takes a serious and accomplished artist to tackle the ontological and epistemological challenges of dead hare education - certainly a calibre of artistic ability Field Study’s Man in E17 could only pretend to profess. I can however indulge in some artistic pretence at least for the duration of the E17 Art Trail and take on the slightly less daunting task of explaining pictures to a much less dead hare.

As to how Field Study’s Man in E17 will explain the art trail’s forest of media to the hare is a mystery as yet to be unfolded. You are invited.       

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