Archiving beehives through the ages, Hives opens the lid on our ancient relationship with the species

While Aladin’s methodology may not be fantastical, the images it unearths often feel like it. Much of the time, the forms in Hives look more akin to carved sculptures and masked costumes than homes for bees. “As an artist, I was amazed by [the] many, many different structures,” says Aladin. “Obsolete or not, the importance of shape and craftsmanship within this history doesn’t stop to fascinate me.” As a beekeeper himself, when pressed to pick a favourite, Aladin opted for one of the carved mask iterations, like the version gracing the cover – “not to work with as a beekeeper, because it would be a nightmare for me and the bees.” However, he explains: “The importance given to the carved mask to protect bees is just breathtaking and really touching, at least for a beekeeper.”
While Hives is small – Aladin states he always knew he wanted to make a book that would fit into a pocket; “a small little yellow book” that’s 375 images strong. These images come from a large array of sources; books, beekeeping journals, online archives and, the main source, a beekeeping museum in Switzerland. Like any research area, this history “has many holes,” says Aladin, but this one is particularly littered with potholes. Most obviously, photography is nowhere near as old as a beehive: “even the photographs of old beehives only go back at most 600 years ago,” says Aladin. To solve this challenge, Aladin decided not to order images from oldest to newest. “Instead, I shuffled most images and decided to associate them using other criteria such as design, shapes, colours and usage. This method, I believe […] was a better way to give an overall idea of how this history could have looked – and doing that not through pure fantasy but by building on existing material and honest research.”
As Aladin continues to dive into the many new technologies advancing the story of beekeeping – such as the fascinating potential digital sensors pose for hives in the future – we just hope he continues to document his search in publications as unforgettable as this one.

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