Global Oracle

Global Oracle is a book-length poem, exhibition installation, and audio poem. 

The book is available now (morning star: 96pp, paperback, £7.50), and can be ordered by emailing info@alecfinlay.com

The installation is included in Counterpoint, as part of Generation, at Talbot Rice Gallery (01 August–18 October, 2014).

The audio poem, with sound design by Chris Watson, is available from iTunes as a free download from 13 August.

Global Oracle: a work of prophetic science is an apicultural model of global satellite communication and navigation systems. Here the complex navigation and communication systems of bees and humans are read together.

This is the most ambitious multimedia artwork I have worked on since Swarm (ASX), an apicultural model of worldwide speculative finance, which I made for the 2012 Sydney Biennale. 

Global Oracle was commissioned by University of Warwick Art Collection, as a permanent artwork which I will install on the campus in 2015. Once complete it will provide comradely outdoor companionship to Simon Paterson's wonderful Cosmic Wallpaper wall-piece.

The project is a technological pastoral, similar to some of the artworks I produced for Skying, which considered renewable energy, landscape, and aesthetics. 

In this new project five NAVSTAR-style satellites have been constructed, in collaboration with Spencer Jenkins and Old School Fabrications. Imagine the straw satellites, which offer themselves as nests for solitary bees, in flight among sycamore and sweet chestnut trees. 

The gallery installation also includes five traditional bee skeps, with their Omphalos-like forms, punctuating a wall text.

Global Oracle explores the relationship between bees, prophecy in Ancient Greece, and GPS satellite navigation systems, such as our contemporary oracle, Garmin. It offers a touching paean to dwelling, and an elegy for the fate of the bees, which is our fate.

The oracle at Delphi was sacred to bees, presided over by The Melissae – seers high on ‘green’ honey. Today our 'buzz' is the honey of star-fallen communication. The prophetic powers of our smartphones depends on an oracular swarm of satellites, with their wings tilted to the sun. These vessels are controlled by the US airforce – Delphi is now twinned with Schreiver airforce – who employ the same system for their spy 'drones'.

These themes are explored in the poem, illustrated with my sketches, and four 'bee-masts', digital prints made in collaboration with Hanna Tuulikki, which she has posted about here

An abridged version of the poem, with sound-design by Chris Watson, is included in the installation, available as a free download from iTunes from 13 August.

from Global Oracle

Bees are messengers

bees are oracular   
foretelling the weather

bees are atoms of delight
analogue to the stars

bees discourse the language
   of immensities

bees will wing us
guided by the daughters
of the sun

along trajectories
only open
to the thinking man

To the Greeks   honey was astron
To the Romans   Saliva siderum   star-fallen

aethereal fare
in the air

at star rise
especially when
Sirius shines
the honey falls
from the skies
as star-spittle

& dews
the leaves
of dawn

Bees become flowers –
flowers become bees –
habits engender harmonies

Bees need flowers
for nourishment 

flowers need bees
for reproduction 

Flowers and bees agree
timing is everything

The bee is a clock
whose dial measures
the day   & records
moments of plenty

the bee remembers
any point   within a day
in its body

the bee is unable
to count beyond
   that day

   the bee is

Our oracles broadcast
from arboreal masts
hung with rich clusters
   of antenna

through that first darkness
which is always with us –
to the distant vessels
that turn in strict circles –
like the loyal geese
that are said to wheel
   the lost Atlantis


Satellites tune us
to the honeydew
of invisible signals
delivering the influx
   of information,
skyfallen words
& the rush   of ceaseless communication

foretelling indexed fortunes
meteorological patterns
computing shipping routes
& the price of rice
predicting our wants
as downloads & tabs

penetrating everywhere
& extending everything
wherever a mast or dish
interrupts the horizon

Over the past three years I have produced a series of art projects and poems relating to bees, culture and knowledge. These include artworks at Brogdale, Shandy Hall, Malham, Merzbarn, University of Stirling, Falkirk and, in 2015, at the University of Warwick. They can be viewed on The Bee Bole.

Bee-related artworks, including the 'bee-mast' digital prints, are available from Ingleby Gallery.

These projects were produced with the help of Luke Allan, Hanna Tuulikki, Amy Porteous, Hannah Devereux, Brodie Sim, Sarah Shalgosky, Chris Watson, Spencer Jenkins, Chris Ellis, Old School Fabrications, and Kathleen Jamie.

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