Works and Projects

ART- Apparatus for Resurgence in Trophallaxis

Tapping into an ancient tradition of defining what is ART.  This ART is a proposition, a system and a project that was shaped by various conceptual clusters and had come about through in-depth considerations and research into aesthetics of sustainability, sustainable land practices and visionary scenarios for sustainable futures. It is a kind of meta-work manifested in multiple sets and strategies for art of living and crafting flourishing now and future.

‘Connection is a form of knowledge. You have to earn it’. -Deborah Bird Rose

‘Art thus becomes a kind of language in which idea, word and thing are inseparably bound up with each other, rather than arbitrary attached’.- Andrew Bowie

‘Art should be an activity that makes possible the experience of the incomparable, the rare, the unique.’- Marcel Duchamp

‘The arts construct and bring together multiple sites of looking again, multiple sites of reinterpretation, and multiple ways of comprehending the world.‘ Rosemary Ross Johnson

 ‘A system is a unity which comes from diversity, ties in diversity, carries diversity in itself, organizes diversity, and produces diversity’.- Edgar Morin

‘All we contribute to the human world, all the practical efforts of our brains, muscles, and hearts, are possessed of meaning only thanks to the presence of the mythical layer of existence’.- Leszek Kolakowski

Art is fruit growing out of man like the fruit out of plant like the child out of the mother. Man should be like nature, without measure; and a dreamer can make eggs as big as houses.-Jean Arp

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. -  Althur C. Clarke

Apparatus for Resurgence in Trophallaxis- ART

This term combines the findings of my research at the Bee Time residency in Spain, with that on termites conducted in Australia.  I used the term ‘apparatus’ at Bee Time, to describe how I worked with the various elements of my arts practise and as an account of how the installation I made was intended to function. I combined the idea of an apparatus with an extended idea of ‘trophallaxis’ (the process by which insects such as bees or termites nourish and nurture each other), as an indication that the way in which this ‘apparatus’ is intended to function is via a mutual exchange of knowledge, shared experience, and care. This exchange is between multispecies world, me, and the audience. 

The ‘purpose’ of the Apparatus for Resurgence in Trophallaxis is multi-species resurgence, as put forward by writer Anna Tsing who states, ‘meaningful sustainability requires multispecies resurgence, that is, the remaking of liveable landscapes through the actions of many organisms.’3


I arrived at the expanded concept of an apparatus through Georgio Agamben who describes an apparatus as ‘A heterogenous set that includes virtually anything, linguistic and non-linguistic, under the same heading: discourses, institutions, buildings, laws, philosophical propositions, and so on.’4 He explains that the word can be traced to the ancient Greek term ‘oikonomia’, meaning the administration and management of a household, involving a set of complex and diverse practices, bodies of knowledge, metrics, and institutions whose purpose is to manage, govern, control, and orient in a way that purports to be useful to the behaviours, gestures, and thoughts of human beings.5  Agamben’s definition of apparatus coincides with my own intentions of developing a practice that affects the administration and management of the systems we create to live in. 

In developing this I was inspired by Duchamp’s’ Apparatus for Agriculture, his subtitle to the Bride Stripped Bare by her Bachelors, Even.6 Duchamp’s linguistic and non-linguistic play, as well as his elaborative complex iconography to ‘escape all convention’ was a touchstone, as was his conviction that works of art are realities in themselves, autonomous universes and that an artist is not somebody who creates, but somebody who chooses to engage the world in a creative way.7

My concept of apparatus also references Joseph Beuys’ Honey Pump in the Workplace, first shown in 1977 at Documenta 6, Fredericanum, Kasseland, where two ship engines pump two tons of honey and 220 pounds of fat through tubes forming a circulation system throughout all the rooms of the gallery. In the room where people gathered for discussion, a transparent tube formed a kind of ‘circulatory organ’.8 Other rooms contained a heart chamber and a ‘head’ with the will represented by pounds of fat pushed into the corners. Beuys wanted three important creative factors, thinking, feeling and movement with the will, to function quite simply, ‘like a machine with an intention’.9 In Honey Pump there is also direct and overlapping relationship between the ‘machine’ and the Free International University for Creativity and Interdisciplinary Research. The activities of the university are part of and activate the machine.10 I used this as a blueprint for devising a similar relationship between my Apparatus for Resurgence in Trophallaxis and my Multispecies Visionary Institute. My ‘apparatus’ is activated by the activities of the Multispecies Visionary Institute. 

The ‘structure’ of my apparatus was shaped by the bee’s nervous system that has seven highly sensitive sub-brains of ganglia that receive information about the world from the sense organs. This led me to consider how the human sensory nervous system acts as an interface with our surroundings and is inevitably interacting with multiple other nervous systems. I wanted my apparatus to be effective in making this interconnection of numerous nervous systems manifest as part of the configuration of art making; a system based on a tangle of multiple nervous systems. 

These ideas became assimilated into my drawings that began to describe complex systems that interconnected various elements, a matrix of biological and mechanical plan. These drawings began to describe the shape and component parts of the apparatus – a plan of the installation and a map for the Slow Disturbance Exhibition Model.

‘Apparatus’ therefore became conjointly ideas, method, and outcome, component parts including knowledge and understanding, ways of living, communicating and making, artworks and exhibition/installation and events. I am part of this apparatus, as is the work I make and the people who interact with it. As framed by Agamben, this apparatus, also can include virtually anything that contributes to the success of a system of management of the earth in a beneficial way.


The term Trophallaxis in my research practice came to signify the active involvement of caring, nurturing and exchange between agents in multispecies worlds. It is about creating abundant ecosystems, like making compost, feeding the soil, and then feeding our gut.  It is about engaging with and learning about multispecies worlds and generating stories from such engagement. 

As the co-opting of the concept of apparatus has been influenced by the work of Beuys, and Duchamp that of trophallaxis has been greatly inspired by the work of Mark Thompson who has devoted his artistic life to bees and beekeeping. Fascinated with honeybees, their life cycle, mystery, and metaphorical potential for expressing communication systems and the complex, intricate workings of life, he sees himself as the bee’s caretaker. Regarding beekeeping as the practice of care and as a performative art practice, he works directly with the bee and the hive, which become his main ‘medium’. His practice is concerned with both technology and ecology, exploring complex, visceral, reflexive, and fluid relationship between human actions and natural processes. He sees the artist as a commentator embedded within a social and ecological system, and as a performative provocateur, intervening within the system they are situated in.11 Liz Brooks in The Spirit of the Hive Mark Thompson’s Invocation describes his work as evolving from science to myth and from physic to metaphysic.12 She says that Thompson ‘shared with Beuys the impulse to blow away the sediment of representation and reconnect with the physical world in a dramatic and risky way’.13  

Describing the experience of being inside the swarm as part of his performance/film project Immersion (1973-76), being at the centre of a vortex of bees, Thompson said that this process allows him to lose himself, his identity, and be a part of a feminine, erotic process that is sensual, healing, and mysterious. This experience inspired him to begin to explore ways to share his work that were more in tune with its spirit and the highly adaptive way that the hive interacted with its environment. 

I would not attempt to put a hive on my head, however, thinking of the hive as generative vortex of erotic ideas with heighten sensitivity and attunement to the surrounding environment, helped with my experiments on using a space of imagination to organise information in a diagrammatic way. Through meditative and mnemonic methods for envisioning, I arrived at a system of aesthetic language that is modelled on the bee’s nervous system. 

Thompson also draws an analogy between the processes of the bee and human language. Foraging bees bring nectar to the hive and transform it using enzymes and pheromones into nourishing substances like honey or wax and exchange it with other bees. This process allows the hive to acquire and share information, passed from mouth to mouth through ‘language’, and each agent involved within this linguistic community ‘marks’ their words or grammar adding to the expanded construction of the language; ‘a hive of languages that comes from our relationship with environment’.14

Thompson’s methods and thinking resonated with my own work. His use of natural materials, fascination with language, and merging of art with life, guided the development of this ART project.  From my visit to Australia, I had become interested in trophallaxis and used it on my own terms as an expression of cultural exchange. Thompson’s work on correlations between substance and information exchange in bees and that of human language, helped develop my ideas for an Apparatus for the Resurgence of Trophallaxis. I asked if the parallels Thomson draws between the bee’s trophallactic processes, and the human language can be better understood by seeing art as an idiosyncratic language that is responsive and shaped by the experience of working with the land. I saw this as evidence of a cultivating reciprocity, just as land practice is about the cultivation and fertility of the earth, so too is the land cultivating us and our culture in turn.

Apparatus for Resurgence in Trophallaxis (ART)

By linking apparatus with trophallaxis by way of resurgence, this ART ‘apparatus’ is to facilitates nurturing and exchange between multispecies worlds. As Tsing reminds us: 

Resurgence is a work of many organisms, negotiating across differences, to forge assemblages of multispecies liveability in the midst of disturbance.16 

Expanding on Beuys’ parallel process’ that advocated the merging of art with life, the Apparatus for Resurgence in Trophallaxis merges the experiences of immersing oneself in multispecies worlds and practices that extend from tending the soil to tending one's own gut, and soul. It engages reciprocally with the natural world through multifaceted art practices whose creative endeavours are synchronised with lived practices of the care of people and planet, it is ’warmth work’: 

Care is everything that is done (rather than everything that ‘we’ do) to maintain, continue, and re-pair ‘the world’ so that all (rather than we’) can live in it as well as possible. That world includes...all that we seek to interweave in a complex, life-sustaining web.17