Nova Scotia

The bee's knees: Stop-motion film starring 500 taxidermy bees finds a hive

Halifax artist Ruth Marsh spent seven years painstakingly preserving hundreds of dead bees. Now, they’re being featured in a stop-motion film at the Discovery Centre.

Ruth Marsh hopes to raise awareness of declining bee numbers, pay tribute to dead bees

Ruth Marsh has created 500 taxidermy bees for her project. (Alex Cooke/CBC)

A Halifax multidisciplinary artist hopes to create some buzz about declining bee populations with a film starring hundreds of the tiny taxidermy creatures.

Ruth Marsh has spent the last seven years painstakingly preserving their delicate bodies: soaking them in rubbing alcohol, drying them out, taking them apart and reassembling them using discarded bits of electronics to create a futuristic look.

She said the project is intended to raise awareness of the crucial role they play in our planet's ecosystem.

"Bees are very important to basically every aspect of our of our lives, just a crucial piece of agriculture in our food system and a creature that does so much for everyone on earth."

The project also memorializes dead bees.

'A loving, respectful memorialization'

"Many aspects of my practice have to do with care, and intentional mourning, and basically making tributes to species that are in danger or that have passed," said Marsh.

"My intention is a loving, respectful memorialization."

It takes Marsh about three weeks to make a bee from start to finish. (Alex Cooke/CBC)

Marsh has preserved 500 of the pollinators so far using dead bees mailed to her from people across the country.

From start to finish, it takes Marsh about three weeks to create a "cyberpunk" bee, though she said she can work on more than one at once.

"That's why it's been a seven-year project," she said with a laugh.

Her 15-minute long film CYBERHIVE is being shown at the Discovery Centre's dome theatre until June 15.

An immersive experience

The film is made up a series of stop-motion animations recreating the lives and environments of the bees.

"I have had a dream for the last few years ... to create a human-scale beehive, to just basically create an immersive experience," she said. 

"I had been thinking of a video installation that folks would spend time in and really feel like they had entered into a beehive."

Marsh's film, CYBERHIVE, began screening at the Discovery Centre's dome theatre this week. (Alex Cooke/CBC)

The dome theatre is the perfect venue for the film, said Marsh, with its rounded shape amplifying the 360-degree experience of being inside a beehive.

The film was first screened at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic's Seadome on the Halifax waterfront last fall.

While the film has only been in the making within the past year, Marsh said the taxidermy bees are part of a larger project and have already been displayed galleries in Ontario, Alberta and Saskatchewan.

Marsh took thousands of photographs for her stop-motion animation. (Submitted by Ruth Marsh)

Each bee comes with a number and a little information booklet with a name and backstory, often provided by the person who mailed them in.

"Basically, I'm creating a taxidermy museum for the future when there may no longer be bees," said Marsh.

The film was created during a summer residency with the IOTA Institute, a Halifax arts organization.

Launch of Bio Art series

The film's opening this week marked the launch of IOTA's Bio Art series in Halifax.

Mireille Bourgeois, artistic director of IOTA, said bio art takes elements of both art and science to create a discipline that transcends visual art, media art and applied science. 

The discipline often works from a sociopolitical angle to make statements about current political and social issues.

Mireille Bourgeois is the artistic director of the IOTA Institute. (Emma Smith/CBC)

"It's important for me to showcase these artists, because oftentimes their works only ever get seen by the art public and also behind the doors of a closed laboratory," she said. 

"And so it's important for us to show the fact that a practice like this can exist outside of those spaces and maybe bring it to a public and engage in that public forum, engage in that public discussion."

While Marsh's film was the opening event, the series will host a number of installations, workshops and talks between May 26 and 30.

About the Author

Alex Cooke

Reporter/editor

Alex is a reporter living in Halifax. Send her story ideas at alex.cooke@cbc.ca

With files from Information Morning.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.