Created during Zhao Renhui’s residency at Kadist SF in 2014, Zhao Renhui began observing and cataloguing insects inspired by the scientific impulse towards exhaustive taxonomy of Sacramento-based Dr. Martin Hauser, Senior Insect Biosystematist at the California Department of Food and Agriculture, and longtime acquaintance of the artist. In Villa Dei Fiori, September to November, Zhao Renhui tracked and collected multiple insects within the everyday urban environment, either finding the insects dead or following them around for few days.
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.