nether hive


Nether Hive

Alec Finlay, 2013
materials: wooden nether hive, straw skep, book

nether hive: Oliver Goldsmith, The bee and other essays & The life of Nash, 1914  

Artist and poet Alec Finlay is currently Leverhulme artist-in-residence at the University of Stirling, working in collaboration with Kathleen Jamie and the School of Arts and Humanities.

This installation adapts Taylor’s 19th century nether-hive system for beekeeping, one of the many transitional modified hive designs, combining the traditional straw skep with the newer wooden container. In his survey of beehives Gene Kritsky records the sometimes rather eccentric names these designs were given by Victorian innovators:

    Nutt Collateral
    Improved Cottage
    Ladies Observation
    Mansion of Industry
    Royal Alfred

In this Nether hive the knowledge of books is exchanged for the sweetness of honey as, each week, a different book relating to bees is displayed. Some of the ideas and images in these books will appear in a series of poems composed by Finlay during his residency.

Design based on Taylor's 1880 nether hive design

Here, in the library, the ever-prescient concept of ‘mind / hive’ is renewed. Like bees in a colony, the books in a library may be thought to form one organism – divided into subjects, as bees are divided by task but, nevertheless, potentially offer a unified consciousness, one in which, contra current ideology, the humanities and sciences form a unified whole.



Discussing this new work, the artist recalls his memory of "wandering through the library during my last few weeks at Stirling, having completed the required work of my degree, making my own flights between different book stacks: poetry, geology, oriental studies, psychology, like a bee, moving from blossom to blossom. This still represents a kind of ideal to me, and is a practice that underlies my art to this day".

nether hive: Oliver Goldsmith, The bee and other essays & The life of Nash, 1914  

bibliography for a nether hive (University of Stirling)

Andrewes, C. H., The lives of wasps and bees (Chatto & Windus, 1969)

Borodale, Sean, Bee journal (Cape Poetry, 2012)

Butler, Colin G. The world of the honey bee (Collins, 1954)

Thomson, D'Arcy, On Growth and Form (Cambridge University Press, 1966)

Heath-Stubbs, John Francis Alexander, The swarming of the bees (Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1950)

Day, John, A critical edition of John Day's The parliament of bees (Garland Publishing, 1979)

Dugatkin, Lee Alan. Cheating monkeys and citizen bees : the nature of cooperation in animals and humans. Cambridge, MA ; London : Harvard University Press, 1999. (Popular B 20.8 DUG)

Emerson, Ralph Waldo, The Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson: Vol. V: Poems (London: George Bell & Sons, 1905) Long MB 1600

Vesey-FitzGerald, Brian Seymour, The worlds of ants, bees and wasps (Pelham, 1969)

Beecher, Jonathan & Bienvenu, Richard, The Utopian Vision of Charles Fourier (Jonathan Cape, 1972)

Goldsmith, Oliver, The bee and other essays, together with The life of Nash (Oxford University Press, 1914)

Graves, Robert, The White Goddess: A historical grammar of poetic myth (Faber & Faber, 1948) 

Harrison, Jane Ellen, A Prolegomena to the Study of Greek Religion (Cambridge University Press, 1922)

ed. T. A. Sinclair, Works and Days (Macmillan & Co., 1932)

Imms, A. D., Insect Natural History (Bloomsbury Books, 1990)

Krombein, Karl V, Trap-nesting wasps and bees: life histories, nests, and associates (Smithsonian Press, 1967)

Levi-Strauss, Claude, From Honey to Ashes: His Introduction to a Science of Mythology, Vol. 2 (HarperCollins, 1973)

Lindauer, Martin, Communication Among Social Bees (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1971) 

Maeterlinck, Maurice, trans. Alfred Sutro, The Life of the Bee (George Allen & Co., 1913)

Mandeville, Bernard,
ed. Phillip Harth, The fable of the bees (Penguin, 1970)

Marx, Karl, Theories of Surplus Value: Part 1 (Laurence & Wishart, 1969)

Ovid, trans. Frank Miller, revised by G. P. Goold, Metamorphoses: Books I–VIII (Harvard University Press, 1999)

Pausanias, Guide to Greece, Vol. 2: Southern Greece (Penguin Books, 1971)

Plath, Sylvia, Ariel (Faber & Faber, 2010) 

Redgrove, Peter, The beekeepers: a novel (Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1980)

Ransome, Hilda M., The Sacred Bee: In Ancient Times and Folklore (Bee Books New & Old, 1986) 

Stein, Gertrude, Bee time vine and other pieces [1913-1927] (Books for Libraries Press, 1969)

Frisch, Karl von. trans Leigh
E. Chadwick, The dance, language, and orientation of bees (Harvard University Press, 1993).

Virgil, The Georgics of Virgil, tr. Lewis, C. Day (London: Jonathan Cape, 1957) 

Alec Finlay & Kathleen Jamie


Photos: Luke Allan; with thanks to Jane Cameron, Helen Beardsley, Kathleen Jamie, Martin Buckle, Old School Fabrications, and the Leverhulme Trust