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Of Art & Animals: Guest Curation by Robert Zhao

This week, the Naiise team is going a little gaga over animals. From talking about having a Bring Your Dog To Office Day to bringing in new animal-inspired product designs, we really want to talk about animals this weekend. So, we invited Robert Zhao, one of the most prominent photographic artists in Singapore today, to curate a special collection for us.

Robert is extremely passionate about animals as a subject matter. A full-time artist, he also founded the Institute of Critical Zoologists, the first interdisciplinary scholarly centre dedicated to promoting critical zoological dialogue and research. Hop on over here to view Robert's curation, or read on to find out more about him.

Pulau Pejantan, by Robert Zhao

1. Tell us more about the Institute of Critical Zoologists. What is it about?

The Institute of Critical Zoologists (ICZ) is where I work. It's where I create work. The ICZ is also a performance via a website and through art exhibitions and artist residencies.

I am very interested in nature. My interest with nature can range from animal traps to cockroaches or to the reclaimed lands of Singapore. I have always enjoyed looking at animals, in the zoo or on TV. Recently I started a new project called The Land Archive. The Land Archive looks at the landscapes of Singapore and narrates the history of how we existed with nature on our island. I believe that art can be a useful way to think about nature.

2. Share with us more about your animal-inspired works please! Where does your inspiration come from?

I was stung by a bee one day while walking through the park. The bee died immediately after having stung me. In fact, it was still in my hand. I began to wonder if there was a way we could catch bees.

I called up my good friend Yong Ding Li, a conservation biologist, and asked him if it was possible to trap bees. It just so happened that he was also doing research on bees, but in Australia. He said that he has been trapping bees for the last few weeks for his research by placing blue vane traps in the fields. He said the traps were quite common. I Googled the trap and it looked just like a blue cylinder. When I questioned him on how the trap worked, he said that bees find the colour blue irresistible. This was a very aesthetic realisation for me, a new way to think about bees. That bees will die for the colour blue.

3. Complete this: animals are...?

... good to look at.

4. Tell us what does design mean to you?

Design a better mouse trap and the world will beat a path to your door. The mouse trap is the most frequently designed object in the world, up to 100 new designs each year and all of them serve the same purpose, to catch a mouse.

The various designs of mousetraps reflect more about the changes of society then the mice themselves. It shows the different expectations and understanding we have with mice.

5. Thank you for curating this collection. What are your top three picks from this collection, and why?

1) Suspicious Tote - I am not sure if you can leave this lying around.

2) Laleh Round Cage - I like empty bird cages and empty aquariums!

3) "Hor-Seen" Housefly Tote Bag - Houseflies are important and they have a role to play in our eco-systems!

6. Moving forward, what are the plans in store for you for your career and artistic journey?

I'll mainly be exhibiting my works, A Guide to the Flora and Fauna of the World at the Moscow International Biennale of Young Art (Russia), PhotoIreland (UK) and Galarie Anzenberger (Vienna, Austria). I will also be going for a residency in San Francisco, looking at nature in the city.

All the best, Robert!

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