Milkwood to undertake sonic investigation into the life of a honeybee

SUSTAINABILITY: Hepburn's Kirsten Bradley and Nick Ratar will present their sonic investigation of bees with Liquid Architecture at the end of the year. Photo: Kate Berry

SUSTAINABILITY: Hepburn's Kirsten Bradley and Nick Ratar will present their sonic investigation of bees with Liquid Architecture at the end of the year. Photo: Kate Berry

Hepburn’s Kirsten Bradley and Nick Ratar have received a grant through the Regional Arts Fund, delivered through Regional Arts Victoria, to present a sonic investigation of bees. 

Photo: Michael Amendola

Photo: Michael Amendola

The Australian Government’s Regional Arts Fund is highly competitive and supports sustainable cultural development in regional and remote Australia. 

Bradley and Ratar, who are permaculture educators called Milkwood, received a $15,000 grant to go towards a project titled Why Listen to Bees?

The project is a collaboration between themselves and national sound art organisation, Liquid Architecture, to explore the world of the honeybee.

As apiarists, Milkwood’s daily observation of their beehive has provided complex insights into the health, mood and sociality of their bees through the sounds of the hive.

Using this ‘bee listening’ technique as an artistic point of departure, the project will stage an array of listening encounters for attendants, from a listening party, to music, lecture performances, poetry, soundwalks and possibly dance.

Bradley said the project would be part of Liquid Architecture’s yearly sound festival. 

“The project will be a bit like sound art meets science in a collaboration across worlds,” she said.

Bradley said she was interested in bees because they are “absolutely amazing”.

“We practice natural beekeeping which strives to be a lot more bee-centric and puts the health of the bees and bee colonies before the harvest of honey. 

“We still harvest honey but the thing we are trying to do most of all is steward healthy bees for healthy landscapes and healthy crops,” she said.

“The honeybees we are keeping in Victoria are an introduced species, European honeybees, but their resilience and adaption to crazy, dry summers and how they interact with all the plants around here is amazing.”

Worldwide, Bradley said bees are facing a lot of pressure from pollution and colony collapse disorder.

“Because bees pollinate one in three mouthfuls that we eat, they are crucial to our farming systems.

“If we are going to do the right thing for the species, we need to understand them as well as possible instead of considering them as a box full of things that sting you and give you honey. There’s a lot to be learned from observing and interacting with them.

“The act of sitting down and listening to a hive will help to re-establish our relationship with the species.”