Preparations for the open studio/ pop up exhibition on the last day of our residencies are always somewhat frantic. The slow pace we cultivate during the two week residency period are accelerated with the rush to prepare the space and the experience we want to share with our guests. By five pm on Saturday afternoon, we were just putting away the scissors and duct tape, finishing setting up the lighting, when the first guests began to arrive.
Miraflores is one of the old Moorish water mills in Santa Lucia, now serving as one of the studios we work in. It sits at the top of the hill, overlooking the valley and the town of Vejer de la Frontera. In the olden days, water was channeled from the spring in La Muela (the village at the top of the hill) and led through a system of aqueducts and channels into the seven mills purposely built for harnessing the downward force of the water. Now, these mills are abandoned and BeeTime is inhabiting them with a variety of creative interventions.
Friends, neighbors, local artists, activists, and teachers from the University of Seville were among our guests that day. They congregated like a family, sharing warmth and support for our initiative. They enjoy coming to meet the new resident artists each year, to experience the village and the Bee Project, through the sensitive vantage points different artists bring with them.
It seemed longer than just two weeks had passed since the day we picked Rosamund, Fatema, Sabina and Tyler up from the bus stop. Two weeks can seem like two months in the Time of the Bee; slow time which enables the things that are usually overlooked in our busy lifestyles to surface and open new possibilities within our work.
We made space for different ways of learning through conversation and phenomenological observation of the bee colonies, as well as learning from the wealth of experiences each student brought with them. On one day we went on a Sound Walk, a practice suggested by Tyler, where we walked from the entrance to the village, along the main road up to the cave on the hill, deliberately paying attention the whole time to the soundscape around us. On another day, we visited a neighboring permaculture project, where we learned about creating regenerative water retention swales across the landscape. There, Andrew Zionts facilitated an environmental constellation in which we explored the different elements of a super-organism and tried to feel what it might be like to be part of one.
We visited a local artist who is documenting natural phenomena in her environment as a way to interact with, and understand her locality. That same afternoon, we climbed the hill to Abejaruco to a visit a local beekeeper, who is exasperated from an ever-increasing loss of hives. The emerging narrative from all these visits is that we may need to find a new way of looking in order to find a new way to see. Solving our ecological problems requires us to use our imagination as a cognitive tool.
Speculative imagination was the underlying motif for Sabina Sallis’s interventions. She was collecting local plants everywhere we went, bundling them into smudge sticks that she would later burn, allowing the smoke to do its ritual healing act for the hives. She wanted to use local olive oil to make ointments and so we found a local organic bodega where they make olive oil; a thriving small-scale plantation of olive trees and vines, boasting an emphasis on biodiversity in the midst of hundreds of acres of ploughed fields for monoculture. Sabina used the olive oil obtained there, together with beeswax from one of our perished colonies, and a combination of three local plants to make a healing salve as an offering to the local bees and people.
When the time came to part on the last day, after speaking our closing words and just before heading off to the bus, Fatema read to us a text she had been writing during the residency. We were blown away by the raw, exquisite poetry of her truth speaking. We felt content that the immersion in Bee Time had created the fertile conditions for this contemplative creativity.
Saying goodbye, we all knew that it wasn’t the end of our work together, but rather the beginning of the next stage; a time of reflection and expansion of the new avenues offered by our shared experiences.