Giant bees cling to trees and float in the air above the garden below one of Brisbane’s newest apartment buildings in the inner city suburb of West End.
Intrigued, I go for a closer look. The bees are part of an art installation called Hive Mind at West Village, a redevelopment of land surrounding and including the historic former Peters Ice Cream factory.
The kinetic bee sculptures have been created by Dead Puppet Society, a production house and design company which specialises in puppet-based visual theatre. And theatrical they are!
A central installation springs from a “hive” which hums with the sound of bees, and at night the bees’ wings are illuminated. The mesmerising musical hum is based on recordings taken from inside bee hives.
Complementing the “puppet” bees, emerging Indigenous artist Kane Brunjes has created a series of works depicting native bees, which line the fence along one side of the garden.
A Gunggari/Kabi Kabi man, Kane says he was inspired by the Wiradyuri Central Lore, Yindyamarra: To do slowly, to be gentle, to be polite, to honour, to respect.
“Considered as a metaphor, these bees are kind by nature, as all I see in them is the goodness they bring to the world by simply being,” he says.
Kane’s work shows the relationship between the stingless native bees and Country “wherever our Country is, and all the living beings on Country”, with the bees flying across their range pollinating, gathering pollen and returning to the hive to produce “sugar bag” or native honey.
There are more than 20,000 species of bees in the world, all playing an important role in pollinating plants. Australia has more than 1700 species of native bees, only 11 of which are stingless. These are the native honey-producing bees (Tetragonula – previously called Trigona — and Austroplebeia). All other native bees in Australia can sting. There are 10 major native bee groups.
Another feature of the gardens is the Hive Hideaways, timber planters designed by artist Sarah Winter as a series of pop-up gardens full of flowering plants to attract bees. Shaped to resemble a honeycomb, they also provide inspiration for local gardeners about what to plant at home to bring the bees around.
Why this focus on bees? Like many other city buildings these days, West Village has rooftop beehives – three as part of the redevelopment, one belonging to a resident – which are part of the sustainability focus on this urban oasis. The giant bees of the installation are replicas of the bees in the West Village hives.
Hive Mind will be on show until July 19.