Essaim (Swarm)

A swarm is composed of tens of thousands of individuals. Whether it be a hive or a swarm in full flight, it’s a very recognisable sound. If we have the tendency to think of a beehive as a whole, this project proposes to make heard the uniqueness of every one of these individuals who compose it, by way of isolated bee recordings.

The installation invites us to partake in several listening experiences, going from the whole (the beehive) to the individual (the bee). The visitor is invited to listen to each of these individuals, and to also become an integral part of the beehive each in their own way, by way of this auditory immersion among the bees. This privileged position aims to make audible the many sound stories of these little beings on their daily life, labor and importance in the preservation of biodiversity.

The installation will consist of hundreds of small individual sound devices, consisting of a sound card and a small speaker, each broadcasting the sound of a particular bee. It’s an ode to these little workers, who often pass by unnoticed.

Studio conception for the recording of an individual bee

This apparatus is crucial, as much by its technical and acoustic plans as by its relationship with the bees. If recording studios are normally thought as places to record music or voices within controlled spaces, a recording studio for insects is quite innovative. It will allow the recording of sounds at a very low level (like the flapping of a bee’s wings) by means of noise reduction and a high quality microphone (B&K 4006).

The studio is designed based on a series of exchanges with different beekeepers. A plexiglass cube will be built with several flowers planted on the inside upon a thin layer of dirt. The microphone will be placed at the center, amidst the flowers. Some of the walls will be treated acoustically in order to avoid any possible resonances. The system will be placed in proximity to the exit of a hive, granting access to the bees via a tube, and allowing for the recording of only bees that leave the hive, while avoiding the return of bees that have already been recorded. A flap will allow only one to enter. The bee will thereby be isolated voluntarily for a few minutes, invited to pollinate the flowers inside the studio. At the end, a larger hatch opens, letting the worker bee leave after is recording session.

The studio will be developed in partnership with Grégoire Lauvin and M2F Créations / Lab Gamerz.

A note on bees

A beehive, composed of 10 000 to 60 000 individuals, is made up of males, a queen and a large number of worker bees. These last few are the only ones that pollinate and the project will solely focus upon this “social class” of the hive.
We often describe the sound produced by a bee as buzzing or droning. Although they don’t have ears they can still pick up on their vibrations due to two organs : the internal membrane of the forelegs and the antennas.
Bees will always prioritise the interest of the hive before their own. The members of the colony generate a collective intelligence which allow for the “whole” to be greater than the sum of its parts. The beehive thus becomes a source of inspiration to contemplate our own collaborative and participatory models.
Their presence is crucial in France : they pollinate 80% of flowers. Their extinction would be a real disaster for the living. The dangers are unfortunately numerous: GMOs, monoculture, pesticides, large-scale beekeeping or global warming.

Residence of research & creation| March 2021

Production D.D.A Contemporary Art (Constance Juliette Meffre)
with the participation of DICRéAM (CNC)
in collaboration with beekeeper Dominique Hardouin
and in co-production with M2F Créations / Lab Gamerz (Luce Moreau and Paul Destieu)
Design of the recording studio by Grégoire Lauvin.
Assistant : Arthur Thomas.
Pictures : Yoav Yaron, Constance Juliette Meffre, Luce Moreau, Arthur Thomas, Félix Blume

Opening on 22nd of June 2021

The installation will be presented during Métaboles at the Ateliers Jeanne Barret from 22nd until 27th of June 2021.
Métaboles is a collective proposal by DDA Contemporary Art, OTTO-Prod, M2F Créations, 1979 in collaboration with Jeanne Barret.