Divest - tunnel installation at the Coal Loader

Kath Fries, Divest, 2015, beeswax and ash in heritage coal loader tunnel, detail view

My site-responsive beeswax and ash installation, Divest, has recently been installed in a heritage coal loader tunnel as a finalist in Sustainability - the 2015 North Sydney Art Prize. This work features clusters of polyp-like forms nesting in the crevices of a disused man-made space, echoing global concerns for dramatically declining honeybee populations. Divest quietly reflects our fragile and complex dependance on honeybees for pollinating crops, and the much maligned - yet vital - functions of insects in all ecosystems.

Kath Fries, Divest, 2015, beeswax and ash in heritage coal loader tunnel

The word 'divest' means to disposes - to deprive of rights or property. I'm used it as the title of this series to imply loss of natural habitat and how creatures adapt to living in human dominated spaces, often where we don't want them. Divest is a continuing series of installations exploring the tactile, aromatic and sensory materiality of beeswax and ash, layered with history and symbolism. These materials are both nurturing and threatening; the beeswax polyp forms have been made by wrapping warm pieces of beeswax around my fingers in a healing bandaging gesture, referencing traditional healing remedies using honey and beeswax. But when installed they take on different nuances, seeping into an interior space – clustered and clinging together, massing the in the corners and crevices – conjuring a sense of unease and vulnerability. 

Kath Fries, Divest, 2015, beeswax and ash in heritage coal loader tunnel, detail view

Embedded in Divest is the symbolism of the materials themselves, the beeswax speaks of the hive, the bees’ honeycomb home, as a nurturing life force for the bees and their essential  pollination role in ecosystems. It also implies an awareness of the current global honeybee crisis, Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), caused by pesticides, parasites, viruses and unsustainable practices of mono-cropping and intensive commercial beekeeping. CCD is an epidemic that poses serious threats to our human food chain, as honeybee pollination is required for the production of over a third of the world’s agricultural crops. 

Kath Fries, Divest, 2015, beeswax and ash in heritage coal loader tunnel

Ash is the other material in Divest, and it is also rich with symbolism of natural cycles, more specifically of life passing into death. Here eucalyptus ash is scattered across the beeswax forms, a gesture that echoes grieving rituals across many cultures and more personally for me, it recalls my father's cremation. Conversely, when combined with beeswax, the ash also suggests practices of smoking of beehives and insect exterminations. Divest is a quiet installation that contemplates our complex human dependence on honeybees, and the fragility of our interconnections with our environments and ecosystems. More info about my Divest installations

7 – 22 March 2015
Sustainability - the 2015 North Sydney Art Prize
The Coal Loader, 2 Balls Head Drive, Waverton NSW
The 2015 North Sydney Art Prize curatorial theme - sustainability - embraces innovation and diversity in contemporary art and provides an entry point into the many conversations about our complex relationships with the world around us, and our individual and collective responsibilities in our increasingly finite environment. www.northsydney.nsw.gov.au