Artist’s Garden : Samur by Zheng Bo

Samur by Zheng Bo 

Zheng Bo’s practice aims to cultivate a kinship with plants, working with human and more-than-human collaborators across dance, film, drawing and installation. His works engage with the fundamentals of human relationships to the natural world, asking us to attune our attention to how we interact with the living world around us.

During his extensive visits to different natural habitats in the UAE in the summer of 2022, Bo was captivated by the Umbrella Thorn Acacia, known locally as Samrسمر, Samur or Salam. One of the most resilient trees in the Arabian Peninsula, the Samur provides food and shelter for humans, birds, camels, and insects and features in literature, poetry and religious texts across time. As well as the Arabian Peninsula, the Samur tree is also native to the Thar Desert of India and Pakistan, the central Sahara Desert and East Africa; a geography and landscape connected through deep ecological time. 

For his Artist’s Garden commission, Bo choreographed a dance with two human dancers and a Samur tree growing in the Mleiha desert in Sharjah, as a way to understand and reconnect with the land and the tree. The dance pays homage to the tree’s tenacity and strength — the vibrancy of its branches, the delicacy of its leaves, and the defensiveness of its thorns. The performance is presented here as a film installation at the Jameel set within a landscape of indigenous plants that thrive in the desert.

Zheng Bo (b. 1974)  grew up in Beijing and now lives on Lantau Island, Hong Kong. Guided by Daoist wisdom, he grows weedy gardens, living slogans, ecoqueer films, and ecosoialist workshops.The diverse projects, alive and entangled, constitute a garden where he collaborates with human and nonhuman thinkers and activists. His ecological art practice contributes to an emergent planetary indigeneity. 

In 2021 he staged “Wanwu Council ” at the Gropius Bau, Berlin and “Life is hard. Why do we make it so easy?” at Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden, Hong Kong. He participated in the Sydney Biennale (2022), Liverpool Biennial (2021), Yokohama Triennale (2020), Manifesta (2018), Tapei Biennial (2018), and Shanghai Biennial (2016). His works are in the collections of Power Station of Art in Shanghai, Hong Kong Museum of Art, Singapore Art Museum, and the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles. 

Zheng Bo Studied with Douglas Crimp and received his PhD from the Graduate Program in Visual & Cultural Studies, University of Rochester. He taught at China Academy of Art from 2010 to 2013, and currently teaches at the school of Creative Media, City University of Hong Kong, where he leads the Wanwu Practice Group.