Artist’s Garden Zheng Bo
Artist’s Garden: Samur by Zheng Bo
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The latest edition of the Artist’s Garden of the Jameel Arts Centre, Dubai, features Zheng Bo, a Chinese artist, writer, and teacher. His work, the performance titled Samur, is presented as a film installation within a landscape of indigenous desert flora. It will be displayed until December 1, 2024.

Being in the UAE, in the summer of 2022, Bo visited various natural habitats there and came across the Umbrella Thorn Acacia, a small tree with a flat top which is called Samr, Samur, or Salam by locals. Typical for the Arabian Peninsula, the tree provides both animals and humans with food and shelter. Its image is also found in literature, poetry, and religious texts throughout the ages.

One of the most resistant trees in the region, Samur fascinated Bo and inspired him to create a performative artwork to celebrate the tree’s perseverance, strength, and beauty. The artist has choreographed a dance in which two immigrant dancers interact with a Samur tree in the Mleiha desert, Dubai. The dance is a way for one to understand and reconnect with the tree and the land.

Zheng Bo, Samur, 2023. Video (4K, color, sound), 21 min. Installation view, Jameel Arts Centre.

About the artist

Zheng Bo (b. 1974, Beijing, China) resides in Lantau Island, Hong Kong. In 1999, he moved to the USA where he graduated from Amherst College with a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science and Fine Arts. In 2005, the artist came back to China and obtained his MFA from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. In 2012, he earned a PhD in Visual and Cultural Studies from the University of Rochester. From 2010 to 2013, Bo taught at China Academy of Art. Today he works as a teacher at the School of Creative Media, City University of Hong Kong, where he leads the Wanwu Practice Group.

Zheng Bo, Samur, 2023. Video (4K, color, sound), 21 min.

An avid plant lover, Zheng Bo strives to create an intimate rapport with flora and connect the human and non-human worlds. His artistic practice focused on ecological themes and influenced by Taoism involves drawing, dance, film, and installations. In his art, Bo delves in the fundamental principles of human relations with the world of nature and invites us to pay more attention to how we interact with our surroundings.

Recently, Bo explores the relationship between plants, society, and politics. He has attempted to step away from a human-centred perspective and to take an all-inclusive and multi-species approach. Marginal plants and marginal people are the subjects in his large-scale interventions, in which Bo brings wild plants into art institutions and abandoned urban spaces. In these projects, the artist often explores both the ecological future of an area and its social and historical context.

Zheng Bo, Garden (Lane 62 Zhaojiabang Road) (2015). Exhibition view: Weed Party, Leo Xu Projects, Shanghai (18 July–23 August 2015). Courtesy the artist.

Zheng Bo has their art displayed in numerous solo and group exhibitions: Wanwu Council Gropius Bau, Berlin, Germany (2021); Liverpool Biennial, Liverpool, the UK (2021); The Soft and Weak Are Companions of Life, Kunsthalle Lissabon, Lisbon (2020); The Topography of a Decade, The Cube Project Space, Taipei, Taiwan (2020); Dao is in Weeds Kyoto City University of Arts Gallery, Kyoto, Japan (2019); The 58th Venice Biennial – Performance Programme, Venice, Italy (2019); Weed Party III, Parco Arte Vivente, Turin, Italy (2018); Let’s Talk About Weather – Art and Ecology in a Time of Crisis, Times Museum, Guangzhou, China (2018); The 11th Taipei Biennial, Taipei Fine Arts Museum, Taipei, Taiwan (2018); Shanghai Biennial, Power Station, Shanghai, China (2016); and others.

The artist’s works are added to the collections of Power Station of Art (Shanghai), Singapore Art Museum, Hammer Museum (Los Angeles), Tate (London), Cass Sculpture Foundation (Goodwood, Sussex, the UK), to name a few.

To learn more about Samur, please visit the project’s official web page.

You might also be interested in visiting The only constant at the NYU Abu Dhabi Art Gallery.