EZRA (2020)

EZRA (2020)

EZRA- Experimental Zone of Radio Activity - collaboration with Bo Choi and Dan Mikesell

draws on parallels between the natural world and contemporary networked society in a multi-media installation. The work is comprised of three primary elements: a) a bespoke beekeeper outfit that is made from radio frequency blocking materials, b) a reimagined 'hive' made from a server rack with wifi enabled nodes modeled after honeybees, and c) a video documenting a beekeeper wearing the RF blocking outfit while tending to the networked apiary.

The work is presented with the hive active and buzzing. The nodes exchange information to one another autonomously, collecting information about the environment, sharing it with each other. The suit is dis- played on a mannequin or dress form adjacent to the hive. A 5 minute video plays on a loop on a monitor next to the rack.

In the video, the beekeeper samples data and tends to the hive. Just as a beekeeper suit in a traditional apiary protects a beekeeper from being stung, the RF blocking suit in EZRA protects the keeper from the WiFi signals that are radiating from the hive. At the same time, the keeper can sample and observe the behavior, separate but knowing.

Digitally networked communication- social media, email, Slack, SMS messages, blogging, and more- has moved from the periphery of our identities to a central component of how we express and present ourselves to others. These need nurturing and care to maintain. At the same time, these representations of ourselves can be harmful, shackling us to a certain role in society- an influencer, a lurker, a booster.

Bees in a hive also have fixed roles- workers, drones, queens. These castes are assigned at birth, giving them a path to follow over their lives. Beekeepers can intervene in this hierarchy by creating a new hive and spawning a new queen. They also tend to the hives in an apiary, collecting honey, beeswax, and pollen for humans to consume.

The bees in EZRA are connected through a localized mesh WiFi network. Free to reconfigure their relations with one another, but fixed in their functionality and they way they present themselves. Data passed between these nodes describes their functionality, the protocols and information operating like the waggle dance of their natural counterparts, sharing information about their surroundings.