Robert Zhao Renhui
10 October 2017 – 30 March 2018
Robert Zhao Renhui (b. 1982, Singapore) is a multi-disciplinary artist and the founder of the Institute of Critical Zoologists. Persistently twisting reality and fiction, his artistic practice addresses the human relationship with nature challenging accepted parameters of objectivity and scientific modes of classifications. Over the years, Zhao has appropriated codes and convention of documentary photography and museum display to compose compelling narratives that subtly destabilize our notion of truth.
Zhao received his Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Photography from Camberwell College of Arts and London College of Communication respectively. His work has been exhibited in international group show such as Jiwa: Jakarta Biennale, Indonesia, 2017; 7th Moscow Biennale, Russia, 2017; 20th Sydney Biennale, Australia 2016; Les Recontres d’Arles, France, 2015. Amongst his more recent solo exhibitions in Singapore are The Nature Museum, commissioned by Singapore International Festival of Art (SIFA) and The Bizarre Honour, realized for OH! Open House, both in 2017. Zhao has undertaken residencies at the Musée du Quai Branly, Paris, France, and Kadist Art Foundation, San Francisco, United States, and the Fukuoka Art Museum, Japan. He was awarded Young Artist Award by National Arts Council in 2010 and is currently a finalist of Hugo Boss Asia Art Award.
Since 2013, Zhao has been collecting old photographs of Singapore, focusing specifically on images that capture the city’s landscape and elements related to her natural history. The project for his residency, provisionally titled The Museum of Disappearance, sets out to unravel the dormant narratives embedded in the photographs in order to shed a different light onto the complex history of our relationship with nature. Further expanding on his interest in the interaction between humans and the natural environment, he plans to conduct extensive fieldwork in the backwoods behind his studio, a patch of secondary forest stretching from Malan Road to Henderson Road, documenting its trees and natural habitat.
For the launch of Final Report of the Christmas Island Expert Working Group in The Lab, Robert Zhao Renhui, founder of The Institute of Critical Zoologists, discusses the scope of his two-year long investigation as well as the research process and methodological approach developed as he ventured into the fractured ecosystem of Christmas Island. Merging scientific observation and artistic speculation, Zhao frames the absurdity of the real and weaves multiple narratives that address the uneasy relationship between humans and the natural environment.