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Capped Brood

The third in a series of works that explore honeybees and the plight of pollinators. Hot beeswax is poured directly onto speakers as they play sounds derived from bees or voices talking about bees. The process, captured with video, plays back alongside 8 wax-capped speakers that sporadically struggle to project the distorted audio through their thick skins.

What happens when you pour molten beeswax onto a speaker? Not surprisingly the result is that the speaker’s range is greatly reduced, and they are left to communicate through vibration. On the one hand, this gesture is a nod to the way that much of bee communication happens which is by pressing their thorax to the substrate of the hive to send messages though it. On the other, this silencing might refer to the muting within ecosystems that happens with the decline of different kinds of pollinators, honeybee and otherwise.

The result of this process varies from object to object based on the speaker drivers used (for example a subwoofer vs. a mid range speaker) and also the sounds that move through the molten wax. As the wax hardens, the surface will sometimes be smooth at other times it will reveal the rippled patterns of standing waves that have been locked into the object.

Around the time the transformation from larva to pupa takes place – at about day nine – workers will cap the cell. The color of capped brood is darker and rougher than cells that contain honey. The cap is porous, which allows the larvae (and eventually pupae) to breathe.

Blue – Narrowsburg Port Austin. 1:59
A 10-minute video is sped up to demonstrate the material changes to the object.

Pink – Mwalimu-Banks :39
Brief edit of a 12 minute video isolating a moment when the speaker suddenly cuts out.

Materially, the wood speaker enclosures are designed and painted to resemble classic colorful Langstroth beehives which are fitted with various drivers. The objects are displayed as an 8-channel installation and they occasionally emit sounds through their “capped” speakers. The work is displayed with the tools used to create them, a table, hot plate, a cooking pot full of wax and other evidence. A video of the “capped brood” being created accompanies the objects.


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