Pascal Schwaighofer

Visual Artist
Postdoctoral Fellow at Franklin University Switzerland
Ph.D. in Comparative Literature, Cornell University
Mellon Graduate Fellow, Society for the Humanities, Cornell University (2022-23)

Mal d’archive (Archive Fever), 2012 - 2016
Beehives, plaster, beeswax

Dimensions variable

Exhibition view: La classe sterile, Museo Vincenzo Vela, Ligornetto, 2016

What would be the best form for an archive? And what would be the best form for a beehive? Indeed, honeybees themselves have a peculiar sense of order and space. But, really, what would be the best form to house our history and our memory?

In 1789, thanks to the observations of Swiss naturalist François Huber, the organic form of a honeycomb began to be framed, organized and therefore imagined as an open book. Intertwined with scientific research, Huber’s “book hive” led his successors to conceive the beehive precisely as a box with movable frames opening the path toward the ultimate optimization of the exploitation of honeybees.

In the course of the 18th and 19th century, the beehive was seen as a conceptual tool that helped to imagine political systems and economics theories. Bees and beehives became a common iconography depicted on unexpected items for disparate contexts: from the royal cloak of Napoleon Bonaparte, on the top of the Mormon Church, up to the first flag of the International Workingmen’s Association (Association Internationale des Travailleurs) in 1864, among many others examples.