Mama is a site-specific exhibition created in collaboration between French artist-designer Marlène Huissoud and the Yucatan Peninsula's native stingless Melipona bees. The biowork involves wildlife as active and equal participants in the process of artmaking to reinforce climate imperatives and underscore the potential for human interconnection with nature in contemporary art.
Mama uniquely depends on the Melipona’s engagement with the installation and surrounding environment. Ahead of the exhibition opening, Huissoud will invite a population of bees into a hollow, bio-agreeable arboreal sculpture—structured with locally-sourced bejuco and finished with dung, ash, clay and a vegetal wax extracted from native cacti—installed within SFER IK. Ten three-meter chimneys will project from the sculpture’s inner cavity like a mother’s outstretched arms, welcoming the endangered species. Six empty satellite hives, also designed by the artist and maintained by trained craftspeople living and working in AZULIK Uh May (“The City of the Arts”) will be installed around SFER IK to encourage the bees to expand their travel into and throughout the entire arts complex. The building’s own chimneys and permeable biomorphic design enable travel into and out of the exhibition space at will, fostering peaceful interaction and coexistence between humans and wildlife.
The Melipona, Latin America’s original bee, is now considered one of Earth’s most endangered animals. Sacred for Mayan culture, the stingless insect is historically known to carry wisdom that Huissoud seeks to expose and propagate in her exhibition. By creating an equal-use, metropolitan environment within and around SFER IK, Huissoud and the Melipona demonstrate the power of non-violence, challenging man’s fear-born, ultimately compromising conception of the animal. Casting the Melipona as symbols for Mother Earth, fecundity and harmony, Mamá inspires attitudes necessary to address the climate crisis and heal the Earth.
Marlène Huissoud is an artist-design based in Paris, France. In 2014, she graduated from a MA Material Futures at Central Saint Martins’ School of Art and Design in London where she developed the project From Insects, an exploration of insect materials from the common honeybee and the Indian silkworm.
In 2020, she won the Wood Award in the Bespoke category for her beehive ‘Beehave’ for the Science Museum in London. Marlène has been named as one of the UK’s top 70 rising design stars representing the future of British design by the Design Council in XXX and as the Most Innovative Experimental Artist of the year in 2018 by AI Global Excellence Award. She won the AI Business Excellence Awards – Most Innovative Design Studio London in 2018 and has been nominated by the Arts Foundation UK for the Material Innovation Award in 2016. Huissoud also won the Make me! Design Prize in 2015, was nominated for Design Parade at Villa Noailles in 2015, and was awarded the Diploma Selection Award at Designblok in 2014.
Her work has been exhibited worldwide in major Institutions such as Victoria and Albert Museum in London, Centre Pompidou in Paris, Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris, Chamber in New York, Design Miami/ in Basel, Design Museum in Barcelona, the Artipelag Museum in Stockholm, Design Days in DubaI and MAK in Vienna, among others.