Beehive Collective Stings Drug War
Two giant posters dominated Craig Lecture Hall on Tuesday, Oct. 30, proudly drawing students to the Beehive Design Collective’s lecture on “The Drug War and Mesoamerican Resistance.”
The Beehive Design Collective is a political graphics team based in Maine that prefers to be defined as transmitters of information rather than creators of art. The Hive sees themselves less as artists than as storytellers and educators. They disseminate their ideas with pen and ink on watercolor paper. They use bugs, plants and animals to avoid human stereotyping and spotlight the impact on nature as well as on humans.
Their self-proclaimed mission is to “cross-pollinate the grassroots, by creating collaborative, anti-copyright images that can be used as educational and organizing tools.”
The group is staunchly anti-copyright so that its images may be reproduced without permission. In fact, the Hive keeps the designs in black and white so that they may be easily copied and distributed, and provides free graphic downloads on its website.
To kick off their lecture, the representatives from the Beehive Collective launched into an explanation of the pieces only after stating, “We are not experts, so feel free to interrupt us and ask questions or challenge us.” They spent the bulk of the two hours speaking passionately about the economic and political issues surrounding the large posters. Students in the audience occasionally helped out with clarifications, such as details about U.S. influence in Latin America.
One poster draped several rows of seats to provide a narrative on Plan Colombia, the controversial U.S. effort to fight the war on drugs, targeting Colombia in particular. The plan was to wipe out the coca plant, but negligence resulted in the spread of herbicides to civilians and resulted in the destruction of legal crops. The plan also propagated abuses by right-wing military operatives through the Colombian security force.
Starting with the colonization of Colombia, illustrated in the poster by wasps dressed in pilgrim hats and a missionary wasp holding a medicine bag and a Bible, the speakers described the complicated history of U.S. entanglements with Colombia. The narrative ended with commentary on consumption, illustrated by larvae with McDonald’s bags and plates of cocaine.
The speakers showed slides of their “hive” on a big screen: a two-acre house in beautiful eastern Maine. The pictures were enticing, and the Hive made sure to note that anyone could volunteer to join forces with the Beehive in exchange for food and housing.
The meeting concluded with the distribution of informational pamphlets and a final thought, “The ants are the heroes of our story. Revolution is the work of the ants. It happens little by little.”
Another Beehive Collective original art piece lay nearby, titled with imposing block letters: “Free Trade Area of the Americas.” Beneath the title, illustrations of bugs, plants and animals made up a complex and chaotic assembly of scenes. The bugs controlled the action; some played instruments, some banged pots and pans, some mixed chemicals and some tortured others.
The speakers emphasized that this is not art for art’s sake, and that these confrontational and provocative images relate to a cause. During the lecture, the group explained that the bugs in this piece demonstrate the threat of trade without barriers such as tariffs, subsidies and taxes. Three spiders dominate the center: a “development in industry” spider busy drilling oil, a “military” spider holding guns aimed at Central and South America and a “corporate media” spider carrying a satellite on its back.