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August 15, 2012

Dutch filmmaker and performance artist Jeroen Eisinga works in the unsettling tradition of body-based art. For Eisinga’s brightly named 2009 short film “Springtime,” on view through Oct. 14 at the Hirshhorn, the artist allowed himself to be totally enveloped by a cloak of 250,000 live bees.

The Effect: “Springtime” is entirely silent, and the lack of buzzing makes the visual imagery more hypnotic than terrifying. At times, Eisinga resembles a white, marble garden statue gathering fast-spreading moss. Other times, a viewer can’t help but fear for his life. Wall-text notes that “this process may also become stressful to consider looking away from — as viewers may feel they are abandoning him.”

The Backstory: Eisinga is no stranger to dangerous bugs. For the 1993 video work “40-44-PG,” he rigged a Volks-wagen Beetle to drive itself in circles, then filmed himself wandering, blindfolded, in and out of its path.

Good to Know: Eisinga prepared for “Springtime” for more than two years, working with bee handlers from the Galtee Bee Breeding Group and developing the mental stamina required for the performance.

Maybe Next Time: The Guinness record for “most pounds of bees worn on the body” is held by American animal trainer Mark Biancaniello, who wore 350,000 bees for a 1998 TV broadcast.

Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Independence Avenue and 7th Street SW; through Oct. 14, free; 202-633-1000. (L’Enfant Plaza)
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