DENISE OLIVARES // Montreal, Quebec, Canada

There is something fascinating about the way honeybees communicate with one another, using their pheromones and their unique language of dancing. It is instinctive and simple in form, yet complex and so purposeful.

For this project, I was asked: What is art for? The answer for me is that art is for communicating. I believe most, if not all, art contains some form of hidden narrative, a (secret) message, a deeper meaning. Art speaks and has more than one voice. It may communicate in literal or conceptual form; through words, colour, movement, sound, taste, smell, etcetera. Sometimes it even needs a little extra decoding. The possibilities are truly endless and in three words, art tells stories.

I wanted to make this work in such a way that it would require others to activate specific elements; folding open, folding closed, pulling/sliding out, pushing back/sliding back in place, reading, touching, holding, et cetera. Additionally, symbolism plays an important role to convey my story. To begin: I use the image of the honey bee to signal the intricate nature behind communication as a whole. When I just think of body language, I think of how primal and fundamental that is. Our basic instincts are consistently relied upon even as alternative ways of communicating as humans are constantly evolving. I read about bees being the “birds of the Muses” in Greek mythology. The Muses would send the bees to gift mortals with talents for poetry or song by covering their lips with honey. The painted square-like shapes have recently invaded my art mind. I have been obsessed with the idea of spaces inside spaces and of repeated or multiplied spaces within space. On the pillow, they appear in different sizes and in different colours. Some even appear to be there but it is like they are not fully formed, or are they disappearing?

On different parts of the pillow there is something to discover or to read. At the top of the pillow, there are three small pocket-like spaces holding small papers. Two of them have the image of a honey bee and one of them contains handwritten song lyrics. Moving directly below, there is another small pocket with another handwritten lyric. Across to the right side of the pillow, curled in a tiny nook, is yet another lyric. The song is ​Thank you​, written by Robert Plant and Jimmy Page from the rock band Led Zeppelin. Robert Plant had written that song for his wife at the time. It is a love song. Some of the lyrics in the song allude to ideas of love lasting even through the “darkest of times.” Throughout the process of making, I kept singing these lyrics in my mind. At the same time, I thought about the precarious time we are all living in. Our very existence as human beings has been challenged. It is more obvious now, life is so fragile. In spite of that, I am reminded of and acknowledge the present moment knowing that I am loved-and that I have the power to love and be generous with those around me.

Inside the pouch/pillow, there are 200 wooden beads, filling it only half way. It has been nearly 200 days since the pandemic entered our space, our city. When you lay the pillow across the palms of your hands or on your lap, you can feel the beads move with the movement of your hands. The beads also make sound when you shake the pillow a bit. It’s a rather soothing sound of wooden objects moving together and knocking against one another.

< Comforting, connecting >