Ongoing - Bogotá - Colombia

Daniela Argüelles Gómez

Reading time: 4 minutes



Reaching for honey

Brief commentary on the exhibition “Lo que hay de otrxs en nosotrxs” [What there is of others in us], by artist Santiago Pinyol, in the city of Bogota, open from August 19 to September 23, 2022 at SGR Galería.

·The exhibition

Although a roof and walls exist, it seems as if things are out in the open, without protection to environmental conditions that leave them faded, striated with humidity, and in the process of oxidation. This is not a lack of care, but trust placed in the power of fragile knowledge and in the atmospheric order to which our joint vulnerabilities are exposed: Earth is a place where, for example, peoples go out to demonstrate in the streets by placing ropes around the necks of monuments; and sometimes in some of them, communities of bees have decided to leave, pollinators of crops that will satiate the hunger of those peoples, producing there—not metaphorically, but naturally—the honey that could also sweeten their bitterness and help heal their wounds.

Camouflaged in such a technical situation, the images of this exhibition appeal to the tenderness of thought; they make us ask ourselves with renewed curiosity about the mystery of trees, flowers, bees, honey, national parks with native and foreign species —in the manner of a colonizing statue that has been occupied by a beehive—in order not to miss a living language that wants to revolutionize our ways of doing politics, working collectively and building sustainable systems.

··A Conversation

Among many other experiences, Santiago is someone who, in 2017, lived in Bogota and strangely followed the movement of a swarm of bees to their honeycomb, in a statue in a park dedicated to George Washington. He is someone who in fear of missing something important watched, from a distance, the National Strike protests in Colombia, from Rotterdam where he now teaches the class “Uncomfortable Monuments. Reimagining Monumentality” together with artist Yunjoo Kwak. He is also someone who has read with obsessive care Eva Meijer’s book When Animals Speak: Toward an Interspecies Democracy.

Thus, we reach the honey—which is in the active process of fermentation at the center of the exhibition—, understanding as a language at the core of certain collaborative architectures, complex deliberations, wills of giving and microorganisms of the landscape. An archive of beating memories, much more effective than other materials in terms of longevity… “It can last as long or longer than a monument, something that is soft but can survive our idea of making history as something rigid, hard”—explains Santiago.

By breaking the hydration balance of this stable substance through fermentation, “the cultures that lie there are awakened” and everything that is happening in this microcosm (ashes, yeasts, sugars, flowers, those who touch them…) is released into a process of transformation that in time can be digested. All in addition to distributing this honey so that “there is a little more to share”.

···Life on Earth, One Planet

Understanding non-human animal languages has real effects on its context. In this case, the powerful recycling of the bees is more useful decolonial work than the destruction of the monument. Can we raise, instead, something better than a beehive? Doesn’t everything that the human species destroys end up in the oceans?

In Eva Meijer’s book, Santiago has underlined a sentence on the page that explains the deliberation process of a hive regarding the place where it will build its new nest; it says something like this: “A unanimous decision needs to be made within a couple of days, because if they deliberate for too long, they could lose the queen, or the colony could die”. The existence of each honeycomb, then, teaches us something urgent if we take into account the number of people on the planet who know the disastrous consequences of delaying pressing collective decisions.

····Reaching for Honey

I find myself with something that the land has given without me understanding how. Arriving, like Carlos (Santiago’s beekeeper photographer friend) to understand a landscape no longer from the restrictions of the gaze but through taste. With Laura (Santiago’s beekeeper artist friend), who guides—not without difficulty—an ornamentalist who helps her harvest honey inside the monument, inviting her not to be afraid of bees.

Arriving at a transparent conversation, which lets the light pass through. Wondering how bees see, Santiago discovers that the photographic apparatus is modified with filters that block infrared and ultraviolet spectra that the sensor does perceive. An attempt, he says, to force the artifact to reproduce the world as we see it, trying to grasp the correct model.

Reaching a ritual dimension. A small animal in continuous expansive movement. An ancestral substance that has healed wounds. The sweetness.

For more info visit: SGR Galería


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