marentus’ was the first action and origin of the project marentus. It took place at La Caverna de la Luz, photographer Javier Vila’s project space in Santander. marentus’ was part of the thematic axis “Jaque al Ojo” curated by Marta Mantecón, a reflection on the state of the gaze and the efficiency of images as purveyors of knowledge. An optical beehive was settled under eldertrees for 104 days at the forest of Villanueva de Villaescusa under the care of Ramón Paz. In this time, the bees obstructed with honey and wax, the silver plate inside the optical beehive. The process of the project catalyzed reflections around the anthropocentric separation of honey and wax, the sacred and the profane. It looked specifically – as a checkmate to the eye – into superstition and belief linked to tradition, popular knowledge and medicine. In search of the image, the beehive was ingested in a collective action by a group of 40 people, eventually unleashing the photographic plate; separating the wax from the honey with their mastication, and infiltrating with sugars of the honey, the bodies of those who consumed it.
“The hive-camera set in motion a biological process that would supply honey, a natural preservative that does not expire and therefore can keep for thousands of years, conserving its nutritive and energetic, as well as therapeutic, sedative, healing and antibacterial properties […] nevertheless, it can become extremely toxic and even deadly, depending on the flower that precedes it, hence it came to be used as a weapon of war.”
Further, ‘… honey constitutes the liquid memory of a territory and the entire culture that has been generated around it, thus it is deeply rooted in collective imagination, gathered in anthologies of proverbs, fantasy-based ballads and tales where the “evil sweet” serves as a trap or lends itself to craftiness and trickery.’
“On the other hand, bees produce wax, a substance as valuable as honey, both for sacred and profane purposes, associated with multiple popular uses, from candles illuminating spaces of worship to the entire gamma of concoctions, ointments and remedies elaborated by witches and druids who, knowing their curative and poisonous faculties, attributed magical properties to them. Since antiquity, wax has also served to make votive offerings, figurines, amulets and funerary masks, even replicas of bodies and anatomical models, in “the belief that the magical power of the image is capable of preserving part of the person” or feigning the presence of life among the dead, something which nevertheless is in close analogy to the practice of photography. Beyond its religious, votive or scientific functions, it was also common to use wax for purely artistic ends, like models for sculptures or as the binding agent for encaustic painting.
‘the pivotal point [of the project] was the inaugural event. One of the identifying traits is that [the work] happens once, through collective action, ritual, ceremony or party –momentum in which all the parts of the project converge. Thus, the entire process of marentus flowed into an action in which all of the participants were transformed into recipients and carriers of the work, a sensorial experience under the sign of a collective celebration which sounded out other senses, including taste, smell and even touch, enhancing a haptic and sensorial knowledge beyond the strictly visual. The action consisted in ingesting honey, in the manner of pagan rituals traditionally celebrated in Cantabria. Eachperson had to extract the wax with its honey from the optical hive, thus revealing the negative obstructed underneath. Through this process, each participant separated the wax from the honey by chewing and ingesting the latter, spitting out the former. The banquet was accompanied with mead, one of the first ever fermented drinks, consumed since ancestral times by the Celtiberians and, possibly, also by Cantabrians, made “with the abundant honey produced by their territory and with the wine they bought from merchants.”Like bees, the public masticated the wax of the honeycomb in order to stimulate the fermentation process. Together with saliva enzymes, the wax is contaminated and is later deposited in a container or memory bank, the same as with the honey in the ‘collective stomach’.
The project ‘highlights vertices between popular wisdom and scientific knowledge, imagination, the game and collective action to provide a poetic space for the image, expanding its intimacy and revealing part of its substance. Since images, like honey, cannot be contained, this occurs by chance; they do not obey the elemental dialectic of container and contained, as delineated by Gaston Bachelard: “For each material, its collocation. For each substance, its existence. For each material, the conquest of its space, its power of expansion beyond its surfaces.”