Critical Mass: The Art of Planetary Health

October - December 2020
Blue Mountains City Art Gallery

Telling the bees, detail  Dirt collected from our garden
A space for grieving and possibility

Telling the bees’, is a traditional European custom in which bees are put into mourning after being informed by the beekeeper about a death in the family. There is little understanding about the origins of this practice, although some people believe it might be inspired by ancient Aegean stories about bees’ ability to bridge the natural world with the afterlife.


In an interdependent system, continually over-prioritising the needs and desires of a single component will eventually cause the entire system to collapse. There is increasing mainstream commentary about the possibility of human extinction being brought on by the failure of our structures. Living with the grief of human extinction may be akin to how a person with a terminal diagnosis might experience his or her final phase. There is awareness that death is undeniable and a question of how to move toward that death with dignity.


For ultimately hopeful societies brought up believing in the human ability to solve all problems, this perspective is hard to countenance. If all human motives are ultimately derived from a biologically based instinct for self-preservation, the culture we create often serves to minimise the terror of extinction by providing a shared symbolic context that gives the universe, order, meaning, stability and permanence.


Climate grief is recognised by the Australian Psychological Society as a strong psychological response to the current and future loss of habitats, species and ecosystems. Counselling psychologist and researcher in environmental psychology, Tristan Snell comments on the lack of rituals around loss of environment, “When you lose someone, there’s a funeral and all sorts of ways people connect and this helps process that loss. That’s just not the case for loss of environment.”


With this work, we offered a small step on the pathway to creating such rituals. Amongst the constant churn of public discord, we made a private space of mourning. By outwardly acknowledging feelings of grief we can begin to accept them which can help us transition to future possibilities.

Telling the bees, detail  Plant material, silk, thread
  • Telling the bees, detail / Dirt, brass
  • Telling the bees, detail / Plant materials, silk, thread, brass, jet beads, found button
  • Telling the bees, detail / Plant materials, silk, thread
  • Telling the bees, detail / Silk, thread, jet beads, found button
  • Telling the bees, detail / Plant materials, silk, thread