Spotted! Zhao Renhui

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Last Friday, 25-year old Zhao Renhui bagged SIPF‘s first ever Emerging Artist Award. Out of twenty-seven shortlisted candidates, Zhao was named the winner of the festival. The award seeks to recognize the best up-and-coming photographic talents from South East Asia. Photographers for the program were selected from a pool of over 150 applicants. The privileged few then had the extremely rare opportunity to have their portfolios reviewed, and to participate in master classes by prominent international figures in the photography world such as Pablo Bartholomew -one of the world’s top photojournalists-, Robert Blake –Chairman of the General Studies Program at the International Centre of Photography in New York-, and Fred and Wendy Baldwin -founders of Fotofest and the International Biennial of Photography.

What is the series about? “The series is entitled The Institute of Critical Zoologists, which is the first interdisciplinary scholarly center dedicated to promoting scholarly dialogue and research on the principles and practices of animal spectatorship, animal advocacy, animal killings and animal-related polices in the fields of social sciences, entertainment, commerce, aesthetics, culture and ecology,” Zhoa explains. “It exists both in fiction and in reality,” he continues. “My projects in the Institute of Critical Zoologists produce forms and ideas about the zoological gaze. They concern themselves with the institutionalization, the archive and the mediation of the zoological gaze. The inspiration for my works comes from trends in conservation and zoological research. These trends and events include how economic incentives shapes the appreciation of zoology and its preservation, and the critical debates about the feigned objectivity of zoology as a science; they prompt me to question the ambivalence of these measures and push them to their logical extremes.”

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An artist and zoologist, Zhao Renhui‘s practice investigates the different modes of the human zoological gaze, or in other words, the way people view animals. “I am interested in the history and development of the zoological gaze alongside social progress and mediation,” he says.

In 2007, Zhao was awarded a research grant by the Chelsea Arts Club in London for his zoological research work. He has also won several awards for his series of work on zoology, including the AOP Student Photographer Of The Year award in 2007. “At the moment, I am working closely with the Institute of Critical Zoologists on a series of public exhibitions, presentations and installations,” Zhao explains. “Our research will be exhibited in the inaugural Photo-Levallois Festival in France in November 2008 with the support of the Singapore National Arts Council, The City of Levallois and Epson France. The Acusis Project with the Institute will also be presented in Derby, United Kingdom during the Format Festival in March 2009. My work will also be part of the upcoming Chobi Mela V Festival in Bangladesh.”

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