Zhao Renhui

London, UK

Zhao Renhui is an artist and almost a zoologist. His practice investigates the different modes of the human zoological gaze, that is, how people view animals. He is interested in the history and development of the zoological gaze alongside social progress and mediation. His practice also investigates the different modes of knowledge production in contemporary archives. Together with The Institute of Critical Zoologists, he has exhibited in Photo Levallois in Paris, Photo Ireland, Format International Photography Festival, Singapore International Photography Festival, Emerging Wave (Seoul) and CUT2010 (Southeast Asia). His research with the Institute for this project received a winning award from the Sony World Photography Awards at Cannes 2010.

Pulau Pejantan

Institute of Critical Zoologists

An uninhabited island in the Indonesian archipelago first visited by scientists only in 2005, Pulau Pejantan (also known as "Sand Forest Island") has recently drawn increasing attention from researchers for its extremely unusual geological features and remarkable biodiversity. Two distinct environmental regions — a central semi-tropical forest, ringed by pale white sand dunes dotted with geothermal oddities like the extraordinary Black Geyser — harbor some six hundred species of fauna, roughly seventy percent of which exist only on the island. From curiosities such as the ghost hare (a black and white animal that seems to share a genetic background with extinct species of both hounds and hares) to spiny burrowing anteaters, brightly colored dune-dwelling rock pheasants, and improbably oversized felines such as the heavy oncela and the iriamondi cat, Pulau Pejantan provides scientists with an extraordinary opportunity to study what is essentially a closed ecological system.

Conditions are difficult for observation on the remote island. Its peculiar hydrological activity and location in the doldrums of the equatorial region along the Java trench combine to produce a thick blanket of fog that covers its landmass essentially from sunrise to late afternoon, 365 days a year; as a result, much of the work must be done in poor light. The images of Pulau Pejantan were taken by Zhao Renhui of the Japan-based institute of Critical Zoologists on an expedition to the island between January and April 2009.


London College of Communication (Graduate Scholarship Program), United Kingdom, Masters in Photography.

Camberwell College of the Arts, University of the Arts London, United Kingdom, BA (1st Class Honours) Photography.

Temasek Design School, Singapore: Diploma in Visual Communication , Honours List.


Bangkok University Gallery, Thailand.

Fukuoka Asian Art Museum, Japan.

Selected Awards

Sony World Photography Awards at Cannes, Winner, Constructed and Conceptual.
Rhubarb-Rhubarb Bursary: When Image Worlds Collide, United Kingdom.
Prix Voies Off, Arles, France: Nomination.

National Arts Council, International Development Grant, United Kingdom (Visual Arts).
Asia-Europe Foundation Young Artists’ Exchange, “Creative Economies”, Emerging Photographer’s Forum 2009, Singapore Representative.
Sotiri International Prize for Young Photographers, Winner, "A Touch of Violence",  a documentation of animal traps (Swiss Cultural Program in the Western Balkans).
United Overseas Bank Prize, Painting of the Year Award, Winner, Singapore.
National Arts Council Singapore, Arts Creation Fund.
National Arts Council Arts Bursary (Overseas) Award, Singapore.
International Graduate Scholarship, University of the Arts London, London.

Singapore International Photography Festival, Winner: Emerging Artist Award 08.
National Arts Council, International Development Grant, France (Visual Arts), Singapore.
Noise Festival United Kingdom, Curator’s Pick (Richard Billingham).
Photo-Levallois Festival, Special Mention, Paris, France.

The Holmegaard 2007 Photography Competition by 95% Danish, Winner, United Kingdom. 
Chelsea Arts Club Trust Travel/Research Award Recipient, University of Arts London.
Association Of Photographers, Student Photographer of the Year, United Kingdom.

National Arts Council Arts Bursary (Overseas) Award, Singapore.
Singapore Art Awards, Honorable Mention.

Selected Exhibitions

Format International Photography Festival, Derby, UK.

M1 Fringe Festival Commission, Jendela Gallery, Singapore. 
CUT 2010, Valentine Willie Fine Art, New Photography from Southeast Asia, Parallel Universe: Manila, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore.
Sony World Photography Awards & Festival, Cannes, France.
Summer Show Project, Michael Foley Gallery, New York. 
“Haven’t You Heard?”, Artists of the 80s Contemporary Arts Exhibition, The Hong Kong Arts Centre & Contemporary by Angela Li, Hong Kong.
"The Whiteness of a Whale", Fukuoka Asian Art Museum, Japan.
Emerging Wave, Seoul Arts Center & GoEun Museum of Photography, Korea.
Flash Forward Festival, Toronto, Canada.
PhotoIreland Festival, Ireland.
"The Whiteness of a Whale", Jendela, Singapore.
"Hungry" by Rhubarb-Rhubarb, Flowers Gallery, London & Rhubarb East Gallery, Birmingham.

The Ark Project, Format International Photography Festival, Pickford Museum, Derby, UK.
"To Sell a Tiger", Chobi Mela V International Photography Festival, National Art Gallery, Bangladesh.
"Animal Memorabilia, Creative Economies", Annexe Gallery, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
"If a Tree Falls in the Forest", The Substation, Gallery, Singapore. 
"A Touch of Violence", National Arts Gallery, Albania.
"Animal Souvenirs, Creative Economies", Goethe Institute, Hanoi, Vietnam.
"Eyes Wide Open", Annexe The Gallery, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Prix Voies Off Late Night Screenings, R'encontre d'Arles, Arles, France.
Paradise Lost - New-photo documentary works, Singapore.

Xhibit 08, ‘A showcase of Arts London’s finest talent’, The Arts Gallery, London.
Institute of Critical Zoologists, Chelsea Trust Exhibition, Chelsea Town Hall, London.
"We Decided to go to the Zoo but it was Raining", Photo-Levallois Festival, Paris, France.

"D.I.Y" exhibition, Central Space, London, Study of Cynopterus.

Selected Publications

The Blind, Intellect Books, Edited by Alfredo Cramerotti

Rubric Journal, Issue 3, Document, Special feature.
NY Arts, New York, Summer 2010 "Voices: Artist’s Interview". 
Public Art, Issue 045, Korea, June 2010.
Cabinet, Issue 38, Artist Project Feature.
The Whiteness of a Whale : Self-published Artist Book

Extra 03., Biannual magazine on Photography, Feature: Antwerp FotoMuseum "The Zoo as Cinema".
Portfolio Magazine, Issue 49, Contemporary Photography in Britain, Cover and feature.

L’oeil (EYE, France’s Contemporary Arts Magazine), France.Nov. 2008 Image of the Month.

The Sunday Times Magazine, United Kingdom, July 8, 2007 ' School of hard clicks', Centerfold.

On the artist’s work:

“As an artwork, ICZ is to science what Walid Raad's excellent 'Atlas Group' is to the writing of recent political history: absurdist but plausible, poignant and playfully political. And it's a critique that cuts at least two ways: art lightly mocking the scientific calibration of animal and human difference but performed knowingly within a culture of art production and art education that increasingly adopts scientific language and behaviours to determine its status as a mode of research. ICZ operates on fertile ground.”

Paul Tebbs, Portfolio magazine,

"The work at The Institute of Critical Zoologists, to me at any rate, seems to have a proper recognition of how science and art, at their very core, both share similar attitudes toward the world -- one of wonder, of exploration and experimentation, and of questioning and challenging knowledge."

Lee Weng Choy, The Substation, Singapore, if a tree falls in the forest catalog,

“His work challenges how we observe nature and notions of truth and objectivity in both science and photography.”

Gloria Chalmers, Editor, Portfolio Magazine Britain

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