The Electric Mule - AKA Avatar Baby..."Bee Here Now" PDF Print E-mail
We The People - We The People
Written by Ernest Gusella   
Wednesday, 16 March 2011 08:21

Hello to all sentient beings in this little spinning ball we call 'the whirl'

25 years ago, Tomiyo and I were videotaping at EXACTLY the spot where the tsunami hit northern Japan.  Her family comes from Miyagi Prefecture north of Sendai, and her retired school teacher uncle took us by boat out into the bay around Sendai where there are beautiful little islands sticking out of the water which look like little 'mushrooms' with old twisted pine trees growing on them. They are so beautiful and ubiquitous to Japanese history, that the Zen poet Basho immortalized these islands in a haiku of 14 syllables with the phrase:



Unfortunately, it is probable that the tsunami has wiped out these strangely twisted natural sculptures- which have also been immortalized by numerous Japanese painters of the past.

To extrapolate further on Basho, during the two years we spent in Japan, videotaping ancient Japan and doing video art exhibitions there, we met an American artist from the San Francisco Bay area, who was awarded the Japan/America exchange fellowship- worth about $50,000 and a year in Japan.  He had a very interesting project.  His artistic medium was raising bees and making very unique honey.  For instance, before the collapse of the Berlin Wall, he obtained a queen and bees from East German bee keepers.  He then drilled a hole in the roof of the West Berlin Museum of Art, where bees from East German and West Germany converged thru the roof of the Museum to create a kind of 'sticky German re-unification' in the galleries several years before the Berlin wall collapsed.  He also had bees make honey in rail yards, and other incongruous places and produced honey with labels indicating the source.  He also made a half-hour film in which bees descend from the air into his hair and cover his head after he placed a queen in his hair.  But I digress!

His project for Japan for which he received the grant, was, that he proposed to walk thru Japan following a famous path that the aforementioned poet Basho had immortalized in poem and which pilgrims follow to this day.  However, the unique thing about the American artist's walk was, that he would be carrying a bee hive on his back and allow the bees to make honey while he made his 'Basho walk'.  NOW HERE IS THE KICKER: bees become dis-orientated (if I may use that term in Asia!), if the hive moves faster than 3 feet per hour.  This means that the walker with the hive on his back, has to move VERY SLOWLY.

I have told this story to a number of people throughout the world and the usual reaction is 'THAT'S INSANE'!, with most folks stating that they could not tolerate moving so slowly and would be bored to death.  I however point out to them that in a country where you can ride the Shinkansen bullet train at 160-200km/hour, one sees Japan in the following manner: factories, rice fields, cities, factories, rice fields, golf courses, tea farms, factories, rice fields, cities etc.- all at VERY HIGH SPEED.  Whereas, the bee keeping artist will see THE REAL JAPAN up close and personal- at the insect level.  The artist estimated it would take him about 9 months to do his walk.  Since the Bay area artist had never been to Japan before, Tomiyo and I assisted him in getting a portable beehive backpack made by a specialty store in Tokyo which makes old style fishing gear baskets from woven willow and bamboo.

As the Zen poet Basho said 'BEE HERE NOW!  Or maybe it was Baba Ram Dass who said it- I can't remember which, but I just got my poetic license by paying a bribe to an Indian official, so who cares?

The Electric Mule aka Avatar Baby

Last Updated on Wednesday, 16 March 2011 18:34
Comments (1)
do you remember the name of the artist?
nico jenkins
Sunday, 26 June 2011 18:24
I have been looking for this artist for almost twenty years; he gave a presentation of the walk at the San Francisco Art Institute and he blew my mind! Now I keep bees and write about art and am trying to put the two together. There is nothing it seems on line (with the exception of your fine memory). Do you remember his name, or whatever happened to him. Please email me at nicojenkins at gmail dot com. Thanks
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