An Artbank + ACMI Commission

Zanny Begg: The Beehive

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The Beehive is a non-linear experimental documentary produced by Philippa Bateman which explores the unsolved murder of Sydney anti-development campaigner Juanita Nielsen. The work examines themes of gentrification, corruption, sex-work, feminism and non-conformist lifestyles. 

Juanita Nielsen was a newspaper publisher, style-icon, heiress and activist. She campaigned against the violent eviction of tenants on Victoria Street who were being pushed out to make way for high-rise apartment blocks. Juanita disappeared on the 4th of July 1975 after a business appointment at the Carousel Cabaret. Her body has never been found and her murderers never charged. 

The Beehive is randomly assembled from a reservoir of scripted fictions, documentary interviews and choreographed sequences. The software, created by programmer Andy Nicholson, randomly selects a different combination of footage with each viewing. The film is  continually morphing and evolving, offering different glimpses and interpretations of this infamous true crime.

The film investigates the contemporary implications of the case serving as a timely intervention into broader discussions over ‘right to the city’, gentrification, affordability and urban diversity today. 

The title of the work, The Beehive is a reference to Juanita Nielsen’s famous hairdo but also serves as an archetypal metaphor used to describe human cities. In classical times the beehive was seen as a hierarchical and densely industrious hub; in pre-Christian symbolism, the beehive was a dark cooperative womb guided by a powerful queen. This clash between utilitarian and feminine  interpretations of our cities provides a poetic tension that flows through the project.

An Enigma Machine Production.

Image: Zanny Begg, The Beehive, 2018; courtesy the artist. Photograph by Hugh Hamilton.

About Zanny Begg

Zanny Begg was born in 1972 in Melbourne and now lives and works in Sydney. Her practice incorporates film, drawing and installation, with a particular interest in exploring the archaeology of contested history/ies and the architecture of social change. This has included working with macro-political themes, such as alter-globalisation protests, and in micro-political worlds, such as with children in prison. Begg’s work is often collaborative, having worked with Sydney based producer Philippa Bateman for The Beehive.

She has had solo exhibitions at Open Space, Vienna, Contemporary Art Tasmania, Hobart, and Verge Gallery, Sydney. She participated in the 2018 Industrial Art Biennial and has been featured in group exhibitions at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, Sydney, the Wagga Wagga Art Gallery, Wagga Wagga and State Library of New South Wales, Sydney. Her work is part of a number of institutional collections, such as the Gallery of Modern Art, Queensland, The Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, Cruthers Collections of Women’s Art, University of Western Australia, Perth, The Neuer Berliner Kunstverein, Berlin and Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in Madrid.