'The Hive': Sound and light installation controlled by bees

Updated 21st June 2016
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'The Hive': Sound and light installation controlled by bees
Written by Sophia Chalmer, for CNN
Deep inside the Royal Botanical Gardens in London, a 40 ton steel sculpture has arisen in a peaceful wildflower meadow. The structure is called "The Hive" -- a 17 meter tall ode to the plight of honeybees, created by artist Wolfgang Buttress.

Long journey home

Originally commissioned and designed for the 2015 Milan Expo as the centrepiece of the UK pavilion, the structure went on to win the Gold Medal at the event. Composed of nearly 170,000 pieces of aluminum, "The Hive" has been painstakingly reassembled in London's Kew Gardens over the past six months -- marking the first time a UK pavilion has ever been rebuilt in the UK.

Controlled by bees

Wolfgang Buttress, a sculptor based in Nottingham, UK, was keen to design a multi-sensory experience. "The Hive" is fitted with thousands of LED lights and microphones entirely controlled by the vibrations of a nearby real-life beehive inside Kew Gardens. The structure emanates a meditative soundscape composed of bee noises, cello and vocals, which rise in intensity the busier the beehive gets.
"I think these days we are bombarded by so many digital images and sometimes we forget how powerful and important sounds, touch and smell are. So to me that was really important, that these elements were at the heart of the installation," the artist explained.
'The Hive': Modern art controlled by bees

Highlighting the importance of bees

"The Hive" aims to highlight the importance of pollinators like the honeybee in feeding humanity, and the challenges facing the species due to climate change, pesticides, and lack of biodiversity -- a message which made it a perfect fit for its new home in London.
"The purpose of 'The Hive'," says Director of Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew Richard Deverell, "is to tell the story of the role of bees in pollinating crop plants and therefore feeding the planet. I thought that was perfect for Kew because we want to bring alive why plants matter, and clearly one of the most important things that plants do, is to feed humanity."
Speaking about "The Hive's" new home, Buttress said: "It just seemed such a perfect fit with the whole history of Kew. To me it really feels like it's kind of come home, it feels like it's always been here."
"The Hive" will be installed in Kew Gardens until the end of 2017.