Apian is a machine for exploring the age-old interspecies relationship from humans to bees and bees to humans. It offers a refuge to encounter this alien species on a more egalitarian basis, mediated by technology and human thoughts. Working outside any institution, Apian is a non-profit bureau, a ministry of bees. It is heuristic, experimental, messy, serious, but above all tries to be honest. This platform is its main online presence, where sketches, ongoing and final pieces are first shown and archived.*
The name Apian is borrowed from Juan Antonio Ramirez who extensively used it in his essay The Beehive Metaphor (Reaktion Books); it defines something – from an architecture to a behaviour, basically as broad as one’s imagination can be – related to bees. Whereas it was founded – and is still mainly operated – by myself (Aladin Borioli), the use of an alias aims to reveal its inherent collaborative face and encourage future collaboration, rather than hiding anything. I have a background in graphic design and photography, visual anthropology and an itch for philosophy rendered more concrete recently via a certificate programme in critical philosophy at The New Centre for Research and Practice. The research draws from personal and tangible experiences, having learnt beekeeping from my grandfather. Since then I’ve continued to keep bees by passion (I do love bees) and as a method of research.
Picture of Apian’s apiary, in Bevaix, Switzerland. The picture was made, in 2012, a day when I was helping my grandfather working with his bees. [ID: In the middle of the picture stands a small wooden cabin surrounded by trees and green. The cabin’s door is open and we can see my grandfather veil. On the right, on top of a stone wall we can see some of the hives. A patchy early morning light bathes the cabin and the surrounding environment, moss is spreading on the roof slowly changing its colour. To give a symbolic example, it looks exactly how I imagined Thoreau’s cabin while reading Walden.]
Apian uses an odd kit of methods, mixing an anthropological approach – largely tainted by philosophical inputs – and the practice of art and beekeeping. It rarely takes definite forms, and is always updated – as an internet blog – corrected and revised. So far, Apian has exchanged with different artists, scholars and beekeepers with shared sensibilities, to mention a few: Ellen Lapper, Laurent Güdel, Randolf Menzel, Lars Chittka and thousands of bees. I intend not to see bees as metaphors, but as an active subject with which we have to collaborate as much as possible.
The outcomes consist of multiple fragments – polymorphous ethnographies mixing different media such as text, photography, sound and video – that are at the same time autonomous and related to one another. Once reunited, they assemble a sort of narrative universe which explores the meta question of the relationship between humans and bees. While mostly focusing on the common honeybees – the species we have developed most intimacies with via beekeeping practice – Apian aims to shed light on the importance of every bee. Bees are in danger. Whereas honeybees seems well defended by the love of many keepers around the world, it isn’t the case for all bees. The threats our bees are facing in apiaries are exacerbated when it comes to wild bees. Let’s by clear: we know the origin of these threats. They stem directly from the extractive and destructive processes of capitalism and the only option is to end this system as soon as possible. Ultimately, Apian’s mission is to think about another possible beekeeping practice outside of productive biases and in alliance with bees.