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COLONY is an immersive sound installation that probes the complex relationship between bees and humans. It weaves together recordings of bees with interviews that explore our co-existence with these insects as well as our compulsion to understand them through a human lens. Voices include a blind beekeeper; a social practice artist who created an installation of hives in the shape of the notorious Pruitt Igoe housing complex; an architect designing a bee sanctuary in Tanzania; an author of a book about being raised among bees; and a Michigan beekeeper working in the field. All reverb applied in the work was recorded live in the cold war era surveillance radar station in Port Austin Michigan.


Exhibition documentation from a prototype of COLONY at Port Austin AIR. Port Austin, MI.
This version included a few hives for seating and a DIY surround sound system.


The first version of Colony was created as part of the Port Austin Artist Residency in Port Austin Michigan. The work started with bee recordings from upstate New York, but grew as I collected recordings of beekeepers in Michigan, but also California and Missouri. The immersive ambisonic sound installation, used 9 speakers and a subwoofer to transform the loft inside a former honey processing barn. The work mixes the voices of beekeepers with the sounds of bees inside and outside of the hive.


Space is an important physical aspect of COLONY, and its 9.1 channel speaker array in Port Austin was distributed throughout the space. Some of these DIY speakers created during the residency were coated with beeswax, lending an olfactory component to the work.  A beehive subwoofer at the center of the space communicated the deep drones of the bees and was surrounded by benches also made from hives where visitors could sit and experience the work with their ears and their bodies. The visual effect of the installation is like visiting a “yard” where bees are cultivated and the smell, vibration and even the haze of smoke added with a fogger, draw on the multisensory aspects of beekeeping.


Vibration plays an important role in COLONY. During my stay in Port Austin I had the opportunity to play back and re-record the human voices and field recorded bee sounds inside an abandoned Air Force Radar Station just outside of town. This architectural relic, which juts out of the surrounding bee-pollinated agricultural fields, has a long cavernous reverb which can be heard in the work. I liked the idea of subverting this military site, once used to track objects in flight, allowing the bees to occupy and claim the structure’s resonance. Bees have their own complex “tracking” process used for locating food and shelter which is supported by collective communication and consensus. 

Image of the cold war radar station in Port Austin now and from the 1960s. 

Sample Audio File

This is a 19:35 stereo mixdown of the ambisonic audio. headphones are highly recommended. 

Future Versions of Colony

Rendering of the proposed expanded COLONY yard

The COLONY installation at the Port Austin AIR residency where I was able to test the sound spatialization as well as the audience response to the exhibition environment encouraged me to expand the installation using numerous hives and to create an integrated media delivery system.

The next phase will include new edited chapters of the sonic story that expand the conceptual scope of bees and beekeeping.  The installation will be built-out to more fully resemble a “yard” (or a collection of hives at a site).  The completed work will include up of 45 hive boxes which can then be donated to local beekeepers when the exhibition ends. Some of the hives will become a seating area for visitors, and others will become floor and ceiling mounted hives fitted with speakers.

Exhibition documentation from a prototype of COLONY at Port Austin AIR. Port Austin, MI.
This version included a few hives for seating and a DIY surround sound system.

Colony was made possible with the support of the Port Austin Artist In Residence Program and Parsons School of Design.


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