It's been said that beekeeping is an art, treading a fine balance between knowledge of bee behaviour and the cycles of development of local plant life. Beijing-based Chinese artist and beekeeper Ren Ri combines this art with a mathematical bent, creating delicate polyhedral sculptures of plexiglass that house intricately constructed beehives.
Ren Ri, who began beekeeping only in 2008, explains on Cool Hunting why he chose this living medium:
Beeswax is a very special material; it’s unstable and can change shape with temperature. The structure of wax cells is orthohexagonal, which is an inconceivable feature in the natural world and it’s a peculiarity of honeybees. Another reason behind the choice of bees is that I wanted to try to eliminate the subjectivity of the artist and the mediation of bees served this purpose.
The series is titled "Yuansu," alluding to the Chinese characters yuan ("element" or "unit"), and su ("mould"). The work highlights the links between humans, bees and nature, and how the ever-changing cycles of life can be shaped.
Ren Ri begins each of these geometric pieces by placing the queen at the centre of the form, with the help of wooden dowels. At intervals of every seven days, much like that period of creation outlined in the biblical Genesis, Ren Ri rotates the polyhedrons according to the roll of a dice, to keep the beehives balanced in form, but to also introduce an element of teleological uncertainty.
Ren Ri appears to be quite committed to this unconventional exploration with bees; some of Ren Ri's previous bee-related interventions under the same title involved him creating enormous maps made with beewax, while another performance piece had him bringing handfuls of bees to his face to be purposefully stung (a pretty brave sacrifice for art, in our opinion).
With bees in serious decline due to habitat destruction and overuse of human-made chemicals, Ren Ri's unconventional beekeeping work is one of many pointing to the vital urgency of protecting the world's bees (which you could also do at home yourself). See more over at Cool Hunting and Ren Ri's Weibo site.