Community Services (2018)


COMMUNITY SERVICES is a project at Marabouparken Konsthall and park that explores the life of bees and how they have been understood, cared for and harmed by humans and our activities. Community Services contains a number of different activities and collaborations that seek to highlight the importance of these pollinators and the urgency to expand the human-centred perspective we inhabit today, in order to create more consideration and respect for other forms of life. Community Services includes Our Friends the Pollinators workshops, Bee Shed, a new sculpture and functioning pollinator house in Marabouparken and neighbouring Lötsjön's park and an exhibition in Marabouparken's BOX including Erik Sjödin's The Political Beekeeper's Library and Mia Edelgart's film Hearts in Tiny Chests (PS) Pollination Services. Community Services is a collaboration with Sundbyberg Stad and Sundbyberg Library.

The following texts are written Jenny Richards, curator at Marabouparken Konsthall.

The Political Beekeeper's Library at Marabouparken

[The Political Beekeepers Library at Marabouparken. Photo: Erik Sjödin]

THE POLITICAL BEEKEEPER'S LIBRARY is an effort to collect, organise and activate books where parallels are drawn between how bees and humans are socially and politically organised. Bees are one of the most written about animals and have featured extensively in philosophy and literature. The books in the library show a fascinating narrative beginning with Aristotle's Historia Animalium (History of Animals) (4th century) to Charles Butler's The Feminine Monarchy (1609) to Thomas D. Seeley's Honeybee Democracy (2010). What starts as a story of a patriarchal monarchy ends with a tale of radical democracy. It can be argued that the authors, speculating on the life of bees, said more about the limits of their own human understanding than that of the life of bees - particularly bearing in mind most of the authors in the library are white, European men. Yet the aspiration for humans to learn from this sophisticated species runs throughout the collection and we encourage you to sit a while, read and try and expand the human-centered perspective the authors have struggled to shift.

Hearts in Tiny Chests PS Pollination Services at Marabouparken

[Hearts in Tiny Chests PS Pollination Services at Marabouparken. Photo: Erik Sjödin]

Drawing another perspective is the illuminating film HEARTS IN TINY CHESTS PS POLLINATION SERVICES by Mia Isabel Edelgart. The film is the culmination of a long-term research project exploring bees, their work and their critical role in sustaining various forms of life. The urgent plight of bees has been highlighted in recent years due to their rapid decline, caused amongst other things by the wide use of insecticides called neonicotinoids. It is only recently (April 2018) that these deep concerns have come to a fore, and an EU ban on the use of these insecticides has been passed. Not all countries voted for the ban. Some, including Denmark, where Edelgart is based voted against; possibly because of the profit that crops produce which use neonicotinoids, or the power of the agricultural industry, or the short-term impact this has on changing methods of production. Which ever way, what is highlighted, the work the bees carry out (and those of other insects) - their free pollination services - has been continually overlooked and neglected. It is only now that this work is increasingly being emphasised, however, often only recognised on the service the bees provide for the pollination of human crops. The immeasurable biodiversity and pleasure connected to bees is rarely qualified. By aligning the plight of bees with feminist struggle, Hearts in Tiny Chests (PS) Pollination Services, too asks us to consider much larger questions of value and care; leaving the viewer, to consider, what kind of relations do we really want to cultivate?

The Bee Shed at Marabouparken 2018

[Activities at the bee shed in Marabouparken. Photos: Erik Sjödin]

THE BEE SHED is a new sculpture is entering Marabouparken; a simple structure, resembling a wood shed, (which also functions as a large house for pollinators). The placement of this work takes into consideration its proximity to water, plants, sunlight and nearby habitat so that is the best location for the bees to set up home. Reused wood is built around a frame to provide shelter from rain and wind, before other organic materials such as drilled wood logs, and bundles of reed are placed inside - creating nesting places for the pollinators.

The building of Marabouparken first began in 1937 and was finally finished in 1955. It was designed and constructed as a recreation space for the workers of the Marabou chocolate factory, thus, the park can be described as a functionalist space, built so that workers could have space to relax on breaks and arguably become more productive workers. There even used to be a creche, located near to the paddling pool where the women who worked at Marabou could leave their children. The many sculptures accenting the different features of the park illustrate the multiple influences and inspirations that have been fed into its development. The park's design draws both upon the 19th Century Arts and Crafts Movement that focuses on craftsmanship and simple forms, particularly seen in the terrace area at Marabouparken, and early 20th Century Functionalism, seen in the open recreational space with large trees and much foliage to conjure up a sense of sanctuary within the city. Whilst differing in their ideas these movements both shared in common that they considered space in relation to what would work best for the humans who would use it.

Since 1955, ideas and designs for green space in the urban environment have changed and access to these important sites of social and community interaction has undergone new types of surveillance and management. Marabouparken proved its significance in 2008 when it won the award for Sweden's most beautiful park. But the award raises the question: beautiful from who's perspective? Parks are built for human recreation and relaxation but they also provide important habitat for wildlife, insects and plants. What would Marabouparken look like if it was built from the perspective of the wildlife that use the park (arguably a far bigger user-group than humans)? This is a concern that Erik Sjödin has worked with for a long time and a question that is starting to infiltrate the maintenance and up-keep of Sundbyberg's park and gardens and the aesthetics they promote. Whilst a cleansed, tidy lawn might have been traditional idea of beauty, what normative aesthetics are we deviating from when we appreciate the unkempt beauty of, for example, tree branches fallen in the Winter left to offer much needed habitat for insects and pollinators? Donna Haraway and others have advocated for multi-species perspective in order to destabilise 'the foolishness of human exceptionalism'1 and underscore that we are part of a complex ecology, in which all components are crucial.

The Bee Shed draws upon ideas within the park's history to propose an increased consideration of nonhumans, such as the animals and plants, in the park. The Bee Shed appears simple and inconspicuous, however, at the same time creates space in the park for the lawn to be left to grow naturally, introducing a element of less ordered terrain; habitat which may prove vital to wild pollinators and other insects in the park. The red paint on the Bee Shed is a common red cottage and barn dye, a paint deep in association with the Swedish countryside and the houses, barns and wood sheds found there. The red paint also reminds us of the industrial heritage of Sweden, as the red color is created from residues from the copper mining in areas around Falun - a history bent on the destruction and expropriation of the land. The Bee Shed is planned to be a long-term feature of the park and hopefully brings with it a new consciousness and appreciation for alternative methods that we could use to support the life of nonhumans at Marabouparken. As Erik Sjödin's practice invites us both to critique and consider; can we find meaningful ways to relate to and include nonhu- mans in our sphere of thinking and in the production of art?

To contextualise some of Erik Sjödin's interests and its connection to many spheres of thinking from ecology and conservation to architecture and the social life of insects, we have collaborated with Sundbyberg's Library who have curated a collection of books to be read by visitors to the park. The book are located in Marabouparken's pavilion near to the play park and you can also find more information on children's reading events and discussions that will happen in conjunction with Community Services over the Summer.

Our Friends the Pollinators with Monsterklubben at Marabouparken 2018

[Our Friends The Pollinators workshop with Monsterklubben at Marabouparken. Photo: Erik Sjödin]

OUR FRIENDS THE POLLINATORS is a workshop for kids, youths and adults to learn how to build homes for pollinators such as honey bees, bum- ble bees and solitary bees. Over the Spring and Summer Erik has held a number of workshops to build houses for wild solitary bees out of reed, birch bark and other organic materials. Those who joined, were able to take their newly made house away with them to place in a gar- den or park of their choice, as well as contribute to the construction of a larger house for pollinators, built in Marabouparken and inaugu- rated on Wednesday 13 June, 5pm.

Honey bees are great pollinators that are often discussed in the media for their important role in pollinating flowers and plants. How- ever, recent scientific studies have shown that wild pollinators are even more important for efficient pollination. Unfortunately many species of wild pollinators are endangered or already extinct. One of several contributing factors is the disappearance of their habitats. In some cases their situation can be helped by constructing various homes for them. Constructing a pollinator house is an opportunity to learn about the needs of pollinators and the larger structural changes we must address to increase biological diversity and make a difference for pollinators.

The Bee Shed at Lotsjon 2018

[Bee Shed and Our Friends The Pollinators workshop at Lötsjön. Photos: Erik Sjödin]

Community Services includes a bee shed and actitivites at the neighbouring Lötsjöns natural reserve. The bee shed at Lötsjön is an almost exact copy of the shed in the Marabou park. It complements the newly established meadows at Lötsjön by providing habitat for bees and other pollinators. In 2019 Sundbyberg stad will establish a meadow near the bee shed in Marabouparken as well. The two sheds will eventually be used by the city's biologists for comparative studies of the situation for pollinators in the two parks.