Showcase: Zhao Renhui

In a two-part post, I would be showcasing Zhao’s winning works and a lengthy interview that I conducted with him over email. His works can be seen at the Institute of Critical Zoologists.

Yaohong: Much of your work revolves around the zoological gaze and I believe that the works you submitted to the competition clearly defined and encapsulated your work in three images. In these images, you painted a clear picture of how human beings treat animals; the curiosity/observation, the intention to ensnare (for a variety of reasons) and the (almost hopeless) attempt to save dying species, inevitably caused by our own devices. I think that it is a very astute observation of human nature.

ZR: I would like to add too that I am also interested in using photography as a discourse for what you have just mentioned. To me, photography is a methodology within itself for investigating the ideas behind our relationship with the world, which revolves around the idea of mediation and the spectacle.

TOP, The space in between #1, The Blind
© Zhao Renhui

The Blind, a series of images documenting a camouflage cloak produced by the Institute of Critical Zoologists for zoologists and nature photographers to observe nature. This series of images which documents the camouflage cloak being used provides a peculiar image of man’s attempt to try to be one with nature. What is his relation to the landscape he surveys? Is he a seamless part of the landscape or still an external observer?

TOP, The space in between #6, A black mouse.
© Zhao Renhui

The traps, highly abstract forms, are conceived over generations of knowledge on animals. Often certain traps are created for very specific species according to their habits. This series of images treat each trap as an emotionally loaded object. They appear to be very aesthetic forms of sculptures at first glance. The images are captioned according to the scientific name of the animal it is suppose to trap. The audience, when presented with only the name of the animal and the trap, imagines and replays the violence in their minds by trying to configure how the trap works against the animals.

TOP, The space in between #63, Sparrow in Acusis
© Zhao Renhui

Acusis, The Ark Project is an initiative by the Institute of Critical Zoologists, the Veterinary Acupuncture Center in Beijing, The Japan Laboratory of Endangered Species and the Biostatsis Institute in Fukuoka. The project’s mission is to help save endangered animals from extinction. It does this by extending the life-span of the thousands of animals that are expected to disappear within the next few years. The process used is called Acusis, which uses acupuncture to induce biostasis in an animal for prolonged periods of hibernation. Seen here is a live sparrow in the laboratory of the Institute.