High above the viewer’s head, white against the sky, a beehive perches on a tall stand. Though its form recalls a mythical idyllic agrarian past, this vernacular architecture is milled on a CNC router table, fusing rustic tradition to the technological and industrial present. This image shows the final installation of the first hive at the DST 18Broadway Gardens in downtown Kansas City. Artist Jarrett Mellenbruch plans to install up to a thousand similar hives across the United States.
Alluding to the architectural follies popular in European gardens in the 18th and 19th centuries, Deep Ecology 1 invites us to take a restful pause and be transported to a timeless pastoral ideal. But the beehive’s gleaming white mass also echoes the Taj Mahal—a memorial to lost love. In so doing it speaks to recent alarming collapses in global honeybee populations (over 90% of wild honeybees in the U.S.), the fragility of their future, and the possible devastating loss of our symbiotic relationship with these pollinators of nearly onethird of our country’s food supply.
Deep Ecology 1 “Haven” is a working sculpture, specifically created to house a colony of hygienic Apis mellifera, a breed whose habits may better control the devastating mites largely responsible for the current crisis. An entirely new kind of beehive, Haven is designed solely for the benefit of the bees and not for the harvesting of their products. With dwindling numbers of wild honeybees, the survival of the species has grown increasingly reliant on commercially kept hives, which are trucked around the country to pollinate fields. In this stressed existence, domestic bees are often exposed to high levels of herbicides, pesticides, diseases and parasites, while also deprived of their nutritious honey, which is commonly replaced with corn syrup. The innovative design of Haven incorporates experimental new methods and materials to address the damage wrought to bee populations through industrial abuse.
Haven engages the viewing public with its aesthetic form and educates with its functionality. Informational plaques inform passersby of the sculpture’s mission and direct those who want to learn more to an associated website. The larger vision is for “Deep Ecology 1” to pioneer a network of hives across the country that educates the public about the state of our ecology and serves Apis mellifera as an intermediate space between domestic hives and wild colonies—perhaps even helping to reverse their decline. “Deep Ecology 1” seeks to provide a bridge back to the wild for the honeybee, a chance for humans to give something back to the species that gives us so much. It also allows our community to contemplate the interconnectedness of species and the ways we can respect and revere nature, and our place in it.
About the Artist: