Bzzzz Wordzzz


The Beehive Design Collective is wrapping up its national tour! Initially an all-women art collective, this Maine-based group (they work in a renovated grange house!) fuses grassroots political activism with some unbelievablly intricately-rendered and conceived graphic posters meant to inspire awareness and change regarding global politics and dynamics, especially in the Americas.

The Hive is volunteer-run, and operates free of copyright constraints by offering its graphics, narratives and lectures, and PowerPoints at will in order to inspire grassroots and word-of-mouth information distribution.

In addition to touring, they’re currently finishing the last in the three-part series on corporate globalization in the Western Hemisphere. The first, on the FTAA (Free Trade Area of the Americas), is above, the second,Plan Colombia is to the right (both are available to download and print), and the last focuses on Plan Puebla Panama, a World Bank/Interamerican Development Bank-funded project which exploits Mesoamerican natural resources through a variety of development projects meant to facilitate “better” trade routes for global markets.

If you catch one of the lectures you’ll be able to see a sneak peek at the five-years-in-the-making triptych the Hive has in store for Plan Puebla, and you can pre-order a copy in order to keep the honey flowing, if you know what I mean.

Detail from Plan Colombia:



Again, check out their tour dates to catch the amazing narrative metaphors behind these images, as well as their free downloads to keep the good word buzzing!

by Kjerstin Johnson
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Kjerstin Johnson is a writer and editor in Portland, Oregon. She is the former editor in chief of Bitch. She tweets at @kajerstin

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5 Comments Have Been Posted


Personally, I am not a fan of demonizing globalization. I don't think it is an evil thing wrought by corporations that is intended to drive local businesses to the brink. That's not to say that globalization is all right and anyone who dares to be critical of it is wrong. I definitely believe there needs to be balance and that sometimes corporations take advantage and run amok. But I don't think that's true in a majority of cases. I think there are also many examples of how globalization offers people and countries opportunities that they would not have otherwise. For instance, I'd say that Ireland has done well on the whole from attracting foreign investment.

So, I think the situation is far more complex than this art illustrates. I'd love to see more art that examines the complexity, or that sees more gray in the situation instead of black and white.

...and Localization


Thanks for writing-- first off, we really appreciate critique!

As an initial statement, I want you to know that our Collective certainly strives to a pretty intense degree towards manifesting mechanisms of accountability. We're also really up-front to our audiences about our strong stance AGAINST coming to communities bearing "The Right" held aloft. Situations are complex. They're so complex, in fact, that it could be considered a common assumption that the average person isn't qualified to pass critical judgment on the world because they lack the total perspective of the issues. How strange is this, the, when they are often more disproportionately affected by those complex systems than are the empowered groups that create and perpetuate them?

The aim of our group is to address and accomodate a range of oft-unheard perspectives into the graphics. You're right, these things are certainly NOT black and white- and what's more: things like free trade, plan colombia, and rationale behind militarism and intervention are MOST usually either underrepresented at all in the popular media framework, or represented in a one-sided, alchemical representation of the forces at work.

That said, we want to convey also that it's no easy matter to make one of these posters. We pour years of effort into the consideration of the finer points and arguments put forward, and this comes with the acknowledgement that no story-teller is separate from the story. That's why we strive for as much collaboration (with our audiences here and our informing communities abroad) and checking from the sources of our information as possible. Entire scenes are dismembered and re-drawn where appropriate. Culturally insensitive references are purged the moment we receive a review of our inquiry. The accompanying paper narrative-booklet (available for free on our website) is updated to accomodate new information, and likewise SO is the story we tell during our presentations.

As a workerbee who has had the fortune to see a presentation prior to working with the group and so can speak both from the position of a collaborator AND inspiree: I would argue that if you walk away from a Beehive Collective presentation with a singular dogmatic mantra persisting in your mind, you probably weren't taking the Bees and the imagery up on its inherent offer/plea for you to think critically for yourself. Incidentally, the posters are black and white so that folks in the Global South with less access to hi-tech copy machines are capable of reproducing the imagery with greater ease. Not only that, but you can color them in with all the shades you need to, literally and figuratively. THAT is the magic of a visual.


*Sometimes* corporations take advantage and run amok? Globalization *is* an evil thing wrought by corporations - as soon as people and families can cross borders as easily (and as carelessly) as capital does, globalization certainly in the realm of the corporation.

The thing about the Beehive posters are that they are intensely complex, and reflect the nefarious reality of these things - each poster takes years to create.

Yes, really.

I'm sorry, but I do not believe that globalization is simply corporations running amok. It is tremendously more complex than that. While I cannot defend the actions of every corporation, I really have a hard time saying that the majority of corporations are evil and bad. I say this after having worked in a corporation for the past eleven years, and I am hardly the example of a company-loving person. I have had my share of disagreements with management over the years, and don't know that I am cut out for corporate life in the long run. But since I happen to work at a medical device company, I also see a lot of good that can come from corporations. I'm surrounded by many people who strive to create the best products they can, which is inspiring. Globalization has helped my company be able to provide medical products to more patients at lower costs. It may surprise you to learn that some international regulations are more stringent than ones in the US, so it also forces us to improve our products and practices.

Globalization has also pushed the costs of many pharmaceuticals down, which is extremely important in third-world countries contending with AIDS and malaria. There are definitely important contributions made by nonprofits in those areas (Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Clinton Foundation, and the Institute for OneWorld health come to mind), but for-profit corporations also play a role. I do believe there are important considerations that need to be made about labor, the environment, and quality of life in general when considering the effects of globalization. But I also believe that you need to consider the good that can come as well in order to address the issue fully, and at times I feel that those aspects are overlooked in the rush to condemn all corporations as evil.

I realize I did not comment on the complexity of the art, and I don't think I fully understood the amount of time it takes to create each work of art. For that I apologize - I did not mean to minimize the amount of work or the results. I find the details incredible and amazing, and would definitely be interested in seeing the pieces up close and personal someday to really see the details.

However, the message I took away from the posted images was that globalization is bad, localization is good. If there is any gray or complexity in the message that was being sent, I did not see it.

we needs stories, but

we needs stories, but lectures and books don't cut it for everyone. viva!

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