FREE PDF! — Robert Zhao Renhui: Seeing Forest (Vol. 1 of 2)

La Biennale di Venezia 2024 – APRIL 2024

The publication Robert Zhao Renhui: Seeing Forest, Volume 1 of 2 accompanies Robert Zhao Renhui’s eponymous exhibition at the Singapore Pavilion at the 60th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia, 20 April to 24 November 2024, curated by Haeju Kim and organized by Singapore Art Museum.


Robert Zhao Renhui is an artist from Singapore trained in photography, and the founder of the Institute of Critical Zoologists (ICZ). He is known for his artistic investigations of the representation of Asia’s and Southeast Asia’s nature, history, and culture in the scientific and colonial archive, and his research often focuses on the evolutionary pressure exerted on other-than-human species by urbanization, global transportation, and the built environment.


For the Singapore Pavilion, Zhao turns his gaze towards secondary forests and neglected pockets of greenery amid Singapore’s mostly urban environment. His project Seeing Forest is the fruit of several years of careful visitations to a terrain of secondary woodland that has proliferated on the grounds of a former, mid-twentieth century military camp, an area which today is encompassed by high-rise apartment blocks, multi-lane roads, and numerous construction sites in the Singapore district along Alexander Road. Littered with the detritus of previous human use and inhabitation, this patch of ruderal forest also conceals the collective and improbable habitat of myriad wild species of vastly different origins. As the artist learns to be quiet and to attune himself to these creatures’ chrono-diverse rhythms and improvised rituals of survivance, urbanization is recalibrated as a relational refuge for heterogeneous trans-territorial, temporally cadenced, and unexpected encounters.


This publication was born out of a decade-long friendship and ongoing collaboration between Robert Zhao Renhui and K. Verlag’s Anna-Sophie Springer and Etienne Turpin. In addition to conceptual sequences of Zhao Renhui’s images and curator Haeju Kim’s essay, this companion book gathers an assemblage of texts from various times, authors, contexts, and sources. Organized in the “Reader” section at the center of the volume, these archival pieces range from publications going as far back as 1883 to being as recent as 2020. Juxtaposing scientific and philosophical analyses with artistic interventions, storytelling, and critical reflection, the selection echoes and reverberates an interest in different ways of knowing mobilized by Zhao’s Seeing Forest Singapore Pavilion exhibition. Two newly commissioned essays, by environmental historian Marcus Yee and writer Jeffrey Kastner, offer in-depth meditations specifically on the artist’s practice and current intervention. As a special treat, in the concluding piece, Zhao interviews his friend and long-standing collaborator Yong Ding Li about their respective and shared experiences of working across art and ecology in Singapore. For more information on the Singapore Pavilion, please visit


In January 2025 Seeing Forest, Volume 2 of 2 will be released in bookshops internationally, when Seeing Forest travels and reopens a new installation at Singapore Art Museum. While mirroring the structure of this publication, in Seeing Forest 2, you will encounter the eloquent voices of additional writers and thinkers carefully invited to compose other throughlines among forests past, present, and future. Stay tuned!


Robert Zhao Renhui: Seeing Forest, Volume 1 of 2, edited by Anna-Sophie Springer & Etienne Turpin. With contributions by Jeffrey Kastner, Haeju Kim, Low Eng Teong, Anna-Sophie Springer, Eugene Tan, Etienne Turpin, Marcus Yee, Yong Ding Li, and artwork by Robert Zhao Renhui. The Reader section includes texts and excerpts by Nathaniel Cantley, Joshua Comaroff & Ong Ker-Shing, Richard T. Corlett, Max Ernst, Matthew Gandy, Jamaica Kincaid, and Farish A. Noor. Design by K. Verlag with Wolfgang Hückel and Katharina Tauer.


Get the free PDF here

(optional views for laptop and handheld devices)



157 x 240 mm

303 pages

Full color images

Softcover, thread-sewn, Otabind, with foil stamping

Print edition ISBN 978-3-947858-55-2

eBook edition ISBN 978-981-18-9456-5


Published by K. Verlag in cooperation with Singapore Art Museum in April 2024