Tuning in explores the importance of cross-pollination in relation to the declining honeybee population and its impact on global eco-systems. Bees play a vital role within supporting biodiversity. They pollinate an enormous proportion of our food crops and many of our wild flowers, and are largely responsible for food security within the UK and the rest of the world. Tuning in demonstrates one of the Earth’s most ecologically and economically significant mutualisms: the musical dynamics of pollen transport and the communication between the pollinated and the pollinator.
There are multiple factors influencing the decline of the bee population. These include the loss of habitat due to modern farming practices and land use; the incidence of new diseases/viruses; the increased use of pesticides; and inevitably, climate change, which forms the major focus of this installation. Quite simply, as the planet continues to heat up, the seasons are shifting globally. One major consequence of this being is the seasons have become 'out of tune' with the bees: that is, the bees are no longer synchronising with the blooming flowers.
Ecological installation Bee Composed foreshadowed Tuning In. As the name suggests, it similarly was conceived to raise awareness of the threat to the bees. Bee Composed, which involved the conversion of a series of redundant pianos into working beehives, subsequently evolved into Bee Composed Live, a multi-media live art installation that explores the science of the hive through a series of immersive interventions and performances.
Tuning in represents the latest evolution or manifestation of Bee Composed. It explores and interprets the new global phenomena of hand-pollination: a process undertaken by farmers in various parts of the world who have been forced to pollinate their crops by hand in the absence of natural pollinators. Labour intensive and costly, hand-pollination is a not a sustainable bee replacement, as evidenced by the cessation of the apple production in some parts of Southern China. Given that the ‘apple’ is a symbol of fertility in multiple mythic narratives, including the biblical Garden of Eden myth, the threatened ‘death’ of the honeybee, along with the ‘death’ of the apple in China, marks a seminal moment in the world as we know it.
Remarkably, one of these hand pollination techniques involves the use of a piano tuning fork, which when tapped on its side, vibrates in the same frequency as a bumble bee. Although this may vary, the pitch of the note released is in A and is called A-440, vibrating 440 times per second. Tuning in provides a natural evolution in Lily’s work: a piece that combines her passion for resonant sounds, bees and pianos within an interactive ‘garden space’ that mimics the harmonising, symphonic and pollinating process of the bee in absentia. The symbiotic harmonic relationship between the pollinated and the pollinator a gift that should be protected and preserved at all costs.