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New Forest
Solo Exhibition Mind Set Art Center, Taipei
Date: 09.07, 2019 - 10.12, 2019

Artists: Robert ZHAO Renhui 赵仁辉

Since the 1950s, global changes such as deforestation and urbanisation have affected animals and plants in different ways. Sometimes they suffer through human development, and sometimes humans produce situations that allow novel organisms to thrive. Due to a dramatic increase in travel and trade, animals and plants have also crossed into new territories, creating new ecological categories of ‘invasive’ and ‘native’ species. Most conservation efforts are aimed at destroying the former and protecting the latter, though increasingly, more ecologists are conceding that these categories are fluid and unstable. New Forest exposes a variety of collisions; between nature and the city, invasives and natives. Sometimes these result in violent encounters: competition, predation and extinctions. Other times these interactions result in a new, precarious balance, and a destabilising of categories of foreign and local, noxious and useful.

Drawn from Singapore and Taiwan, the images in this show explore novel ecological situations. In Singapore, the artist has spent the last year documenting a small secondary forest where migrant humans and animals have created a new wilderness. Using infrared cameras placed around an abandoned base camp, he captured vagabond species that have come to drink from pails, creating strange, otherworldly tableaux. Another set of images come from an annual parrot count, where volunteers gather to tally the number of invasive red-breasted parakeets that they can see in a single night. These species are seen to compete with the local long-tailed parakeet.

The images from Taipei also underscored by control. They come from various animal surveys the artist took part in, including a frog survey in Taipei where he captured the invasive spotted tree frog with volunteers. Other pictures tell stories of failed eradication, such as a jar of brown anoles in a Taipei research institute. In Chiayi, for example, the government paid villagers to capture these invasive creatures, but their population has not been significantly reduced. Another species that caused anxiety in Taiwan was the Chinese blue magpie. Officials feared it would mate with the Formosan blue magpie, creating hybrids, and it had.


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