Robert Zhao Renhui
He counts the stars and call them all by name

Created during Zhao Renhui’s residency at Kadist SF in 2014, the photographic grid features a selection of some 6,000 members from single family of flies –hoverfly– identified over the last 25 years by Sacramento-based Dr. Martin Hauser, Senior Insect Biosystematist at the California Department of Food and Agriculture and longtime acquaintance of the artist. Worldwide specialist of hoverflies, Dr. Hauser collected the insect and meticulously sorted them out. The label below each fly indicates the country where it is from, its species, its size, etc. Some of the hoverflies look like bees and wasps, for a yet-unknown reason. During his career, Dr. Hauser identified many new species of hoverfly: holotypes, the single specimen upon which new nominal species are based (red tag), and isotypes that follow duplicates of the holotypes (green tags). By colliding these scientific methods of explaining the world with visual art, Zhao Renhui perhaps invites critical reflection on human’s thrift for objective knowledge and datas by blurring the lines between objective documentation and fictional narrative.

Robert Zhao Renhui’s photographic prints question fact-based presentations of conservation and highlight the manner through which documentary, journalistic, or scientific reports sensationalize nature in order to elicit viewer sympathy. Zhao portrays human as figures curious about their natural environment, which is at times mysterious and unpredictable. Through observing human behavior in front of animals rather than that of the animals themselves, Zhao’s critical lens examines various modes of what he calls a “zoological gaze,” the manner through which humans view animals and nature. His works create visual ambiguity so the viewer becomes aware of assumptions made about the way images present facts. Zhao received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in photography at Caberwell College of Arts and a Masters degree at the London College of Communication, where he graduated with distinction.