Singapore, Very Old Tree, 2nd Edition
Self-published by Institutie of Critical Zoologists (ICZ)
Re-printed in 2020
Edition of 1000
180 x 115 x 38mm
Included in the box set are 30 original postcards of the project by Robert Zhao, a map of interesting trees in Singapore, and a book of write-ups. First published 2015. Designed by Temporary Press.
Singapore is often known as a Garden City, but this is an impersonal image of anonymous trees and gardeners. Our project aims to boil this generic image down to specifics by exploring the concrete, personal connections that Singaporeans have made with trees. After all, what is loving nature without loving the individual plant?
Through our interviews, we found that people relate to plants in touching and occasionally surprising ways. For example, a group of Buddhists have been circling a rubber tree for an hour a day, for the past few years, as a form of walking meditation and to absorb the tree’s “energy”. A mangosteen tree has been sheltering a man for 20 years, since he saved it from the bulldozers. Another woman cries when her trees don’t fruit.Besides featuring in individual stories, trees are living, breathing markers of history. The trees in our collection are of different ages. Some are old native species from pre-colonial times, when Singapore was mostly a freshwater swamp forest; others are younger trees that their owners planted from seeds.The images on show are influenced by vintage hand-tinted Singapore postcards. In fact, Singapore, very old tree is named after the title of one of the oldest postcards in the National Archive, a 1904 picture of an unspecified tree.
Singapore, Very Old Tree - 2nd Edition / Robert Zhao
Robert Zhao Renhui (b. 1983, Singapore) is a multi-disciplinary artist and the founder of the Institute of Critical Zoologists. His artistic practice addresses the human relationship with nature challenging accepted parameters of objectivity and scientific modes of classifications.
Zhao received his Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Photography from Camberwell College of Arts and London College of Communication respectively. His work has been exhibited in international group shows such as Jiwa: Jakarta Biennale, Indonesia, 2017; 7th Moscow Biennale, Russia, 2017; 20th Sydney Biennale, Australia 2016; Les Recontres d’Arles, France, 2015. Amongst his more recent solo exhibitions in Singapore are The Nature Museum, commissioned by Singapore International Festival of Art (SIFA) and The Bizarre Honour, realized for OH! Open House, both in 2017. Zhao has undertaken residencies at the Musée du Quai Branly, Paris, France, and Kadist Art Foundation, San Francisco, United States, and the Fukuoka Art Museum, Japan. He was awarded Young Artist Award by National Arts Council in 2010 and was a finalist of Hugo Boss Asia Art Award 2017.