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Beech, Pine, Fern, Acacia

[18.03.23 – 06.05.23]


Zheng Bo


13/F, Blue Box Factory Building, 25 Hing Wo Street, Aberdeen, Hong Kong 

(Related files)

Kiang Malingue is pleased to present Beech, Pine, Fern, Acacia, Zheng Bo’s solo exhibition at the gallery’s Tin Wan space. For the first time, Zheng Bo groups together four “biophilia films” in one space — Pteridophilia (2016-), The Political Life of Plants (2020-), Le Sacre du printemps (2021-), and Samur (2023) — tracing the myriad trajectories through which their artistic practice has evolved in the last decade.

Zheng Bo’s four film projects have been unfolding in four distinct ecological situations: Pteridophilia in a subtropical forest with lush ferns outside Taipei; The Political Life of Plants in an old-growth beech forest near Berlin; Le Sacre du printemps in a primeval pine forest in Dalarna, Sweden; Samur in the Arabian desert with a single umbrella thorn acacia tree.

Zheng Bo began the Pteridophilia series in 2016. As the first project in the ambitious “biophilia films” framework, Pteridophilia connects queer people and queer plants by imagining close contacts between humans and ferns. The participants cultivate deep emotional and physical relations with the plants: making love to them, trying out BDSM acts, and bonding with fiddleheads and spores. The stunningly sensual Pteridophilia series provided the foundation upon which later “biophilia films” have expanded.

First shown in the artist’s 2021 solo exhibition Wanwu Council at the Gropius Bau in Berlin, The Political Life of Plants is a black-and-white film that speculates about the forest’s political life in a cinematic style that alludes to the aesthetics of early 20th century Soviet cinema. Featured in the film are conversations between the artist and two leading ecologists in the region, on topics such as symbiosis and community-building. Focusing intently on Grumsin, an ancient beech forest in Brandenburg and one of Germany’s UNESCO World Heritage sites, The Political Life of Plants is a portrait of the forest as a queer assembly where the trees take part in a congress of their own “more-than-human” form.

Le Sacre du printemps, referencing Nijinsky and Stravinsky’s 1913 landmark experiment, was first presented at the 59th Venice Biennale in 2022. Zheng Bo returns the dance to a living forest. Five Nordic dancers keep their bodies upside down to compose ecosexual courtships with pine trees that are hundreds of years old.

Zheng Bo’s latest film Samur, completed in January 2023, is part of a two-year Artist’s Garden commission at Jameel Arts Centre in Dubai. During extensive visits to different natural habitats around the UAE in the previous summer, the artist was captivated by the umbrella thorn acacia tree, known locally as Samur. In the film, two immigrant dancers and a Samur tree in the Mleiha desert are delicately entangled. For Zheng Bo, the dance is a way for all of us to reconnect with the tree and the land. 

Biophilia, according to renowned biologist E. O. Wilson, describes our innate urge to connect with other forms of life. Zheng Bo insists that their chief responsibility in making these “biophilia films” is “ecosensibility” — instead of creating or directing. The panoramic Beech, Pine, Fern, Acacia conjures a garden of earthly delights in which humans and plants dance, love, and flourish together.