The Beehive is a non-linear experimental documentary created by artist Zanny Begg exploring the unsolved murder of Sydney anti-development campaigner Juanita Nielsen. The inaugural Artbank + ACMI Commission, the video installation 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 Kings Cross, who were being pushed out to make way for 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, offering different glimpses and interpretations of this infamous true crime.
The Beehive's title references Juanita’s famous hairdo but also serves as an archetypal metaphor 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.
The Beehive was produced by Philippa Bateman. An Enigma Machine Production.
Image: Zanny Begg, The Beehive, 2018; courtesy the artist. Photograph by Sam Droege.
About Zanny Begg
Zanny Begg was born in 1972 in Melbourne and now lives and works in Bulli, near Sydney. Her practice incorporates film, drawing and installation, with a particular interest in exploring hidden or contested histories. Begg’s work is often collaborative, having worked with Philippa Bateman for The Beehive.
Begg has exhibited widely in both Australian and international institutions including Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, Sydney; Contemporary Art Tasmania, Hobart; Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane; Melbourne International Film Festival; Istanbul Biennial; and Campbeltown Arts Centre, Sydney.