Soaring to the uppermost reaches of the Museum, Hive is built entirely of more than 2,700 wound paper tubes, a construction material that is recyclable, lightweight, and renewable. The tubes vary in size from several inches to 10 feet high and will be interlocked to create three dynamic interconnected, domed chambers. Reaching 60 feet tall, the installation’s tallest dome features an oculus over 10 feet in diameter. The tubes feature a reflective silver exterior and vivid magenta interior, creating a spectacular visual contrast with the Museum’s historic nineteenth-century interior and colossal Corinthian columns.
As with most things that can be described by the word "spectacle," Studio Gang's Hive installation is hard to describe with any combination of words and images. It's deceptively large. It'll make you giggle. And it messes with your senses in the best way possible.
The installation has shapeshifting qualities. The silver exterior of the roughly 2500 paper tubes changes from metallic, almost pearlescent, to a matte plastic appearance depending on the light. This alternately makes the exterior of Hive look like a jewel from the sea or an unattended pile of children's toys.
Depending on where you stand Hive either looks like a fortress or a screen that's barely there. From some angles, it almost seems improbable that the entire structure could stand up on its own.
The Building Museum says the interior of the paper tubes are painted "a vivid magenta" but the color changes from lipstick red to 80s neon pink depending on the light and your position relative to the structure.
And if you love symmetry and repetitive geometry like I do....
The interior is breathtaking and appears larger from the inside than it should from the outside. Hive is simultaneously cathedral-like and creature-like. And wholly stunning.
Once inside, the shape-shifting nature of Hive becomes very apparent. Looking up through the canopy of tubes caused my eyes to lose focus since I couldn't discern the boundaries between light, shadow, and the tubes themselves. At its upper reaches Hive begins to look as though it's being viewed through a kaleidoscope. The effect is rather hallucinogenic.
I know for a fact based on my own artistic endeavors that many times what I've planned or visualized isn't what is delivered as the end product. I think a big part of being successfully creative is knowing when a mistake is something that should be persued vs. deleted. And often times I'm more attracted to a piece of work that's ostensibly "flawed" as I think these type of works have more charm, more humanity, and more interest. Hive is exactly this. Hive is unfinished and will remain so due to a design complication that Studio Gang didn't anticipate which couldn't be corrected in the time allotted to building the project.
I'm not sure how the Building Museum or Studio Gang feel about this but, for all the reasons I mentioned above, I love it. The largest chamber of Hive sags just a bit. This creates a beautiful ripple that runs both vertically and horizontally through the chamber and disrupts the otherwise perfect symmetry of the main structure. You can learn more about this (and see a really kick-ass time-lapse video of Hive's construction) via Washingtonian.
Hive will exist until September 4 when it will be disassembled and recycled. Since this is part of the Building Museum's Summer Block Party series, there is a TON of special programming associated with the exhibition — concerts, lectures, late-night parties, etc.
Tickets for Hive include admission to all other current National Building Museum exhibitions.
FREE: National Building Museum Members
$13: Youth/Student with ID/Senior