July 16, 2024


You are Your Only Limit

Robert Zhao Renhui Challenges the Boundaries In between Art and Science

3 min read
Robert Zhao Renhui Challenges the Boundaries In between Art and Science

In response to Joseph Beuys’s well-known 1973 dictum, ‘Every human getting is an artist’, Robert Zhao Renhui would probably say, ‘Every human being is a scientist.’ Doing the job predominantly with pictures, the Singaporean artist replicates the experimentation at the main of scientific inquiry, complicated the ambiguous boundaries involving art and science to toy with the viewer’s perceptions of actuality and fantasy.

In A Manual to the Flora and Fauna of the Planet (2013), for instance, Zhao photographed a prize-successful red head goldfish on a pink tabletop, alongside a remote-managed cockroach, a sq. apple and the world’s smallest gentleman-designed frog. Using the form of an anthropological study or catalogue, the venture options pictures of 55 crops, animals and landscapes, some person-designed or altered by people, some wholly fanciful. Released below the fictional moniker of the Institute of Vital Zoologists, the catalogue presents an overview of the creatures and vegetation of the all-natural planet in the variety of animal replicas, photographs and files.

Robert Zhao Renhui, Entire world Goldfish Queen from the series ‘A Manual to the Flora and Fauna of the World’, 2013. Courtesy: ShanghART Gallery

Zhao has also explored his homeland’s contentious historical connection to animals, insects and pests by unpacking fashionable myths relating to British colonial encounters with the island, the discovery of scarce pearls expanding in coconuts on Singaporean plantations in  the 1890s, and the unearthing of lightning-fused sandy rocks, or fulgurites, in community reclaimed land. For the 9th Asia-Pacific Triennial of Modern day Artwork, the artist gathered far more than 300 objects and artefacts to build the large-scale multimedia installation The Bizarre Honour (2017) – a Wunderkammer, or cabinet of curiosities.

In the collection ‘Christmas Island, Naturally’ (2016), Zhao examined a landmass that was at the time element of Singapore and is home to fauna, flora and wildlife at good chance of extinction. Christmas Island, The natural way II (2016), for occasion, reveals the island’s iconic crimson crabs earning their way to the ocean to lay their eggs. Signs about the crabs, which are native to the island, can be viewed following to roads, warning motorists about their need to cross to arrive at the h2o to reproduce.

Robert Zhao Renhui, J8.2 from the collection ‘Christmas Island, Naturally’, 2015. Courtesy: ShanghART Gallery

The Strains We Attract (2019–21), an installation Zhao offered at ShanghART Singapore in 2019 and at the 2021 Chengdu Biennale, proceeds the artist’s enquiry into conservation and the natural earth by documenting the migration web-sites of birds – together with the godwit and the critically endangered good knot – in the wetlands all over the Yalu River, which divides China from North Korea. Whilst for the 2021 Busan Biennale, the artist analyzed a Paulownia tree developing in an deserted property over the study course of a yr utilizing time-lapse cameras (Evidence of Issues Not Noticed II, 2020).

For the 2023 Gwangju Biennale, Zhao instructed me that a new system of operate, Striving to Remember A River (2022), is an exploration of ‘a neglected river in Singapore’s Gillman Barracks which was protected up 100 a long time back. Captured by movement-sensor cameras, the river’s inhabitants are discovered to be a exceptional local community of individuals that contains a black-crowned evening heron, a migrant visitor that comes each individual December to hunt for catfish. The hidden and teeming ecologies of the river, just a short length away from the concrete jungle nearby, discuss of the complexity and resilience of all-natural spaces amid urban surroundings.’

Robert Zhao Renhui, Evidence of Factors Not Witnessed I, 2020, video nevertheless. Courtesy: ShanghART Gallery

Zhao is inspired by awe and curiosity at the scope of the known universe. For the artist, an fascination in science is inseparable from his plan of storytelling. His fascination with ecology, mother nature and conservation delivers a humanistic point of view to his entire body of operate, with tasks these kinds of as Attempting to Recall a River illustrating Zhao’s motivation to keep on to spend in ‘the entanglements and interwoven excellent of all life’ and projects that ‘allow realities to unfold over time’.

Key impression: Robert Zhao Renhui, The Lines We Draw I (From New Zealand), 2019, gentle jet lightbox, 1.5 × 1 m. Courtesy: ShanghART Gallery

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