The birds and the bees

Bundanon Trust, the lead organisation of the Shoalhaven Science Hub will again present Siteworks. This Spring, artists, scientists, scholars and community members will gather to explore the theme: “The Birds and the Bees”.

Held at the stunning Bundanon sites, the event is an occasion for participants to share their knowledge and experiences arising from the property that was a gift to the Australian people by celebrated artist Arthur Boyd.

The first Siteworks event took place in 2009. Since then, the event is presented each year over one or two days in Spring on location at the Bundanon sites located 25 km west of Nowra.

Siteworks is an all-too-uncommon opportunity for artists and scientists to participate in the same discussion. Over the years, the event has gained widespread recognition for maintaining a unique balance between artistic risk, intellectual rigour and local participation.

For example, one of last year’s art-science collaboration at Siteworks culminated in a performance entitled The Medieval Bundanon. This project, developed with researchers from the University of Wollongong, invited community members to delve into a deep, muddy trench as they explored the medieval climactic anomaly through geomorphology, music and dance.

In previous years, Siteworks has explored concepts such as “The Feral”, “Biodiversity” and the “Future of Food”. The 2017 Siteworks theme is “The Birds and the Bees”.

Birds are the great survivors – the dinosaurs that made it through the environmental challenges that defeated so many. They now live amongst us, and are the main contact most of us have with the wild world.

Bees too have survived. They are the foundation on which the fertility of many plants now relies.  With bee populations collapsing in some parts of the world, they have become harbingers of possible ecological collapse.

An important feature of Siteworks has always been The Conversation, where experts discuss topics arising from the event’s theme.

This year, ABC broadcaster Robyn Williams will be on site to lead conversations with a range of scientists with expertise across diverse fields:

  • Srini Srinivasan, a neuroscientist from the University of Queensland, has an interest in bee navigation
  • Gráinne Cleary will explore the relationship between birds and humans
  • Michelle Hall will share her research on female bird song
  • Rob Brooks will join the dots between the birds and the bees by talking about how sexual beings go about selecting their mates.
 “Birds do it, bees do it…probably we’ll live to see machines do it…” Cole Porter 1928

In terms of the event’s acclaimed art program, a range of leading artists have also embraced  the theme of the Birds and the Bees.

  • Performance artist Barbara Campbell is making a number of one-person bird ‘hides’, that participating humans will wear as they are released into the Bundanon bush at dusk.
  • Visual artist Anne Noble will exhibit her Dead Bee Portraits, memorials from an imagined future when bees no longer exist.
  • Musician Elia Bosshard will be creating a circle of sound surrounding the audience with her ensemble of five flautists playing The Flight of the Bumblebee.
  • Sound artist Nigel Helyer will create two bird houses, one with sounds of birds imitating humans, the other with the sounds of humans imitating birds. 

And there are many more artists participating. Local beekeepers and birders will also be on site, providing information about how the general public can get more involved with the natural world around them.

Siteworks is great for adults, but there’s plenty for kids to do as well. Bundanon’s experienced education staff have a range of bird and bee related activities to keep them busy all afternoon. All welcome to enjoy the Siteworks program and to event camp overnight onsite!

When: From midday until late on Saturday 23 September
Where: The Bundanon homestead near Nowra.
Cost: Free with optional camping onsite for $10

Visit the website for more information.

Guest post by John Baylis with image courtesy of Bundanon Trust: “The Birth of Beeness” by Deborah Kelly. Inspiring Australia (NSW) provides support to Bundanon Trust for its science engagement activities as the region’s Science Hub lead.