REVIEW: After Hours: The Hive at Kew Gardens

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I have become a major advocate for “Late Night” events in London, and have found myself traipsing through the V&A, the Tate, and now Kew Gardens, in the dark of night on the odd school-night.

The Hive is an immersive audiovisual experience, stimulating literally every sense. Designed by UK-based artist Wolfgang Buttress, the exhibit is made up of 170,000 aluminium parts, and is constructed in such a way that it takes on the shape of a bloomin’ enormous beehive. The 1,000 LED lights which encase it, as well as a set of sounds from a pre-recorded library, surround the visitors. These lights and sounds are triggered by bee activity in a real beehive on the premises, placing the experience in “real time”.

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The sounds ebbed and flowed throughout the time we spent in there, and it really felt alive. The pre-recorded sounds created a soundscape composed of bee sounds and the musical output of an instrumental ensemble. The musicians had improvised to a live feed of beehive sounds in the key of C (the key bees buzz in incidentally – who knew?!) and it was this that created a constantly evolving soundscape. It was this that meant that we sat there for over an hour taking it all in.

There is no question it is an exhibit to see at night – the thousand LED lights are barely visible in the daytime, and this is undoubtedly its most impressive visual feature. After Hours hosted accompanying events in the main building, alongside The Hive. So not only did we get to see a great exhibit, we also got to wander round market stalls selling honey, mead, and other great bee-related produce, and take up an easel and pencil to draw models dressed as, you guessed it, bees. The latter was an unusual addition but actually was bizarrely quite a highlight.

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Overall: Not the best value for money; at £15 it was quite steep, but that said, it was a fabulous evening out and it was a thoroughly unusual place to watch the sun set, and it made for a pretty groovy summer’s evening.

 

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