at the house we used to live at with about a dozen other folks we had a poster from the beehive collective about the free trade area of the americas.it sat right across from the dinning room table where we would eat together and meet. there was a big jar of markers next to the poster and folks could as they saw fit color it in, like a giant adults coloring book. when meetings got boring, which was often, i would get lost in the poster.
rumor had it that beehive had given a presentation at the house years ago, the same night someone dumpstered a case of red wine, there was much misbehaving, that vomiting occurred on the beehive’s giant fabric banner, and this had effectively blacklisted the house from any future beehive events. can’t say that i blame them.
when i came into the room this week for the detroit future media class i am taking i saw a copy of the beehive’s most recent poster on mountain top removal and a couple of slighty crunchy looking guests. i was guessing that the beehive was paying us a visit – which turned out to be true.
after a quick slide show they got out the banner and started telling stories.the banner is an enlarged version of the printed poster, and makes it easier to work out the detail of what is going on. the bees spent over a month interviewing folks affected by mountain top removal in west virgina, tennesee, virgina, and kentucky. no recorders, no video, not even pen and paper to take away from the safe space, they would just listen to stories, and then when they got back to the car quickly scribbled down as many thoughts as they could. with these stories gathered they went back and made a rough draft of the poster and then brought it back to the communities they had visited before making a final version. what they thought would be a six month process turned into a two-year process due to all the complexity and detail. over ten artists worked collaboratively on this drawing.one of the nice things about seeing the large banner is how much easier to take in the details and focus, the smaller poster can be a little overwhelming in trying to take in – for instance i have a copy of the poster at home and spent a good amount of time looking at it, but never noticed the paw paws before.the beehive visit really helped me to think of how art could be used to create an entire education campaign, as they use the banners to go to schools and talk about complex issues, ask youth about issues that concern them, and then help them to make silkscreen images about the concerns of the youth. they also provide poster to the communities most affected by the issues they are documenting, so that they may sell or give them away to bring awareness.
while i don’t have any plans to do a collaborative art project with 10 other artists, it has had the gears turning about the possibilities of ma and i working on more collaborative art work addressing more of the political and social concerns we share, but first we have to get though all our current projects.
to see better images of the beehive’s true cost of coal poster – or to even purchase it you can go here.