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The Insect Societies (part I)

Henrik Håkansson

For the 2016 Emscherkunst exhibition Henrik Håkansson erected two cuboid edifices in a field behind the timber-frame farmhouse of the Emscherquellhof in Holzwickede. The two minimalist sculptures are based on an open, grid-shaped structure of six-by-six cubes reminiscent of Sol LeWitt’s iconic Concept art of the 1960s: the basic element of his three-dimensional work was the modular structure of the cube which he generated in numerous variations to create a largely skeletal edifice. Håkansson enlarged the skeleton of cubes to create an edge length of almost three-and-a-half metres and erected it in the middle of nature. In contrast to the purely conceptual idea, the Swedish artist gave his object a function: the white cubes serve as a refuge for insects. In 2016, in collaboration with local apiarists, eight hollow spaces in each structure were furnished with wooden honey bee hives and wild bee houses. On the surrounding 2,000-square-metre-field, local varieties of wild flowers were sewn to give the bees sufficient sustenance.

»The project formulates a vision for the inception of a new kind of society.«

Hen­rik Håkans­son

A frequent theme of Håkansson’s artistic work is the precarious relationship between humanity and its environment, and how this is perceived. Humankind’s exploitation of nature has had fatal consequences: among others, over many years ecologists have been observing the gradual extinction of bees. Bees guarantee the preservation of our ecosystem and make an indispensable contribution to biodiversity and to our food production. In contrast to honey bees, wild bees are solitary and often dependent on certain flowers, or have special needs regarding nesting sites. Hence, monocultures in agriculture, pesticides as well as climate change pose a threat especially to wild bees, which unlike honey bees, are not looked after and fed by beekeepers. With his colossal insect house in the middle of a flowering meadow Håkansson gives, as it were, visual expression to the ecological vision for the new Emscher valley: to restore species diversity in flora and fauna. One aspect of the conversion of the Emscher river is the creation of a sustainable space for experience and relaxation which allows for balanced cohabitation with nature.

Beautiful from above: The works of art on the Emscherkunstweg can also be admired from the air.

Credits: Film concept, camera, drone & post-production: Gionik Media GmbH, Dirk Gion Opterix, Johannes Kassenberg
Music & sound design: Samuel Brözel 

Quellenstrasse 2
59439 Holzwickede
Public transport

From Dortmund Hauptbahnhof (main station) take the U47 to Dortmund Aplerbeck, and from there the 438 bus (towards Holzwickede Landskrone). Descend at the stop Holzwickede Emscherquelle. Then on foot for about 1 km to the Emscherquellhof.



April to October

Thursday and Friday 1 - 5 pm
Saturday and Sunday 12 - 6 pm


Wildflower field, two open cube structures with 216 inner cubes, wooden honey bee hives (amount variable)
Dip-galvanized, powder-coated steel pipes (6 cm, white), wood
Dimensions wildflower field: 2000 m²
Dimensions steel cubes: 342 x 342 cm each
Dimensions bee hives: 50 x 50 cm each

The protection of insects is taken seriously at the Emscherquellhof.

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»I see the work as a process that naturally relates to the process it relates to. A form of infinity, a kind of circular movement that always goes back to where it started, but without a beginning or end.«

Henrik Håkansson

Henrik Håkansson

A central focus of Henrik Håkansson’s (*1968 in Helsingborg, SE) artistic work is his exploration of our conceptions of nature, culture and science. He investigates how they interrelate and the kinds of images and realities they evoke. He couches his artistic questions and process-oriented research in various media such as film, photography, text, sound and cross-media installations. He was shown at the 2003 Venice Biennale and has had numerous solo exhibitions, such as in the Palais de Tokyo in Paris (2006) or in the Taipei Fine Arts Museum (2018/2019).