ARTIST: Zheng Bo, assisted by curator Liu Xiao
ARTWORK/YEAR: Plants Living in Shanghai (2013)
REGION: East and Southeast Asia
RESEARCHER: Wang Dan
Shanghai Cement Factory was built in 1920 and later moved out of the city center in 2010. Wild plants gradually occupied this site. Zheng Bo and Liu Xiao was invited by the district government to research and preserve the vibrant habitats. “Plants Living in Shanghai” was the research of a found botanical garden of weeds and a series of online public lectures about plants and Shanghai. The project centered narratives on weeds. There were a variety of wild plants growing where they were not wanted and in competition with cultivated plants—to further probe their histories, visual representation and significance in China’s modernization and their relationship with the growth and transformation of Shanghai. Zheng Bo also worked with local scholars specializing in ecology, literature, Chinese medicine, and architecture to develop an eight-week open online course (MOOC) to investigate the past and present of Shanghai through plants.
“Plants Living in Shanghai” took place at the old Shanghai Cement Factory (West Bund Shanghai), which reclaimed as a contemporary art venue two years ago. The project was artist’s discoveries made throughout his intensive research and fortuitous wanders in Shanghai. The featured plants and weeds represented the interstitial time in which of these institutions at West Bund in transition. “Plants Living in Shanghai” differed from other artists initialized social practices which was founded by West Bund Shanghai. Social practice art is not new. Artists have been producing highly participatory art since 60s. But in more recent years, social practice art has slowly been gaining institutional recognition, where museums and art foundations have begun encouraging more community-oriented art.
All copyright belongs to Shanghai Academy of Fine Arts, Shanghai University.