Zhao Renhui – The Ark Project

Acusis is a method of extending the lifespan of endangered animals by performing acupuncture on them to induce a state of torpor and decreased physiological activity. Animals under Acusis are revived every five years to reproduce with another revived animal.

Zao Renhui, a Singapore born artist based in London, has recently worked with The Institue of Critical Zoologists on a few projects, including The Ark Project. 

“…For this exhibition, our artist in residence, Singaporean Artist Zhao Renhui, has painstakingly selected some representative documents from our massive archives and artefacts from our museum collection.”

Things presented include: animal memorabilia and souvenirs, animal traps and the documentation of the Acusis project.

The television screens show live video feed from web cams installed in the laboratory of the Tomaya Flowerpecker and the Rainbow Trout. The Institute of Critical Zoologists celebrates the reintroduction of more than 200 rare birds, bred at the Institute’s laboratories, to the wild by the Acusis Program. The Institute of Critical Zoologists is also taking this chance to celebrate the reintroduction of more than 200 rare Sarina’s Flowerpecker, bred at the Institute’s laboratories, to the wild by the Acusis Program.

The Institue of Critical Zoologists formed in 1996 as a result of a merger between the Japanese and Chinese Institutes. Now it has offices in China, Japan, Singapore and London. The mission of the Institute of Critical Zoologists is to train and work with scientists, zoologists, conservationists, artists and researchers in the field. They offer training in a wide spectrum of fields in fundamental zoology, applied zoology and research on the aesthetics of modern zoological conservation.

Artist statement

My practice investigates the different modes od the human zoological gaze, that is, how people view animals. I am interested in the history and development of the zoological gaze alongside social progress. Urban societes live in relative isolation from animals; however our demand and gaze upon them have grown significantly over the last century. It is undeniable that looking at animals is considered both desirable and plesaurable in societes. Animals convey meanings and values that are culture-specific, and in viewing teh animal, we cannot escape the cultural context, political climate and social values in which that observation takes place.
This is interesting to me.
December 2007

Live Webcam #01 Rainbow, Tuesday, March 17 2009, 23:57:36
Acusis, The Ark Project, Institue of Critical Zoologists

Acusis Live Webcam Streaming Feeds, Pickford’s Museum, Format Festival 2009

Unknown Flowerpecker with pressure points marked, possible Meiji period

From the Animal Traps Collection, 2009

Vitrine of Animal Traps

An interview with Renhui Zhao
Creative Review, July 2007: one to watch (international)

Singaporean Renhui Zhao has just received the Association of Photographers’ Student of the Year award and is currently shortlisted for both the Adobe Design Achievement award and the LDC Photography awards. Not bad for someone in the middle of a BA(Hons) in Photography at Camberwell College of Arts.
Zhao’s AOP award-winning images, entitled Animals Menagene, come from a selection of photographs taken when he was travelling around Asia. In each country, he visited zoos, circuses or other establishments where animals were on show. “My motivation is always to try and uncover the relationships that humans have with animals, to reflect on how we treat each other,” says Zhao. “I preffered the countries that treated animals really badly, as I found them much more interesting. But you do soon realise that all zoos treat animals similarly, even if they appear different at first.”
Zhao believes that his recent award will be key in gaining both awareness and sponsorship for his continuing photographic studies of the animal kingdom. Indeed, part of his AOP prize is the chance to accompany an AOP photographer on a shoot – and it’s easy to see why he chose to work with Tim Flach, whose stunning images of horses have gained worldwide attention. For Zhao, there’s also another reason: “Tim’s most recent series of live bats attracted me because my last project was contrary to his: working with dead bats and staging them in a studio to look alive!”
As the recipient of the Chelsea Arts Club Travel award, Zhao will also embark on a further two projects abroad this year. He intends to go to Spain to document zoos and then to visit a series of tiger farms (areas set aside to encourage the survival of endangered species) in China.
Whilst studying, Zhao has also co-founded an initiative called “A Dose of Light” – a collective of artists in Singapore who aim to promote their visual art internationally. A fellow member, Nicholas Chi, won AOP’s Merit Award for his image of the interior of a Singapore hairdressers.
Zhao has a philosophical view of his work, believing he is only as good as his last project. So we’ll have to see where the tiger farms in China lead him. His immediate intention is to complete the final year of his degree. “Then, I hope to stay in London and do commissioned projects on animals in order to promote social change,” he reveals.


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