Zheng Bo: Bamboo as Method

22 February – 28 April 2024  
Edmond J. Safra Fountain Court
Free 

This spring, Somerset House’s spectacular courtyard will be transformed into a bamboo garden by Hong Kong-based artist Zheng Bo. Using over 300  bamboo plants, the installation creates a place for contemplation and serves as a reminder of the importance of human-plant intimacy within the urban landscape of Somerset House and central London.  Zheng’s large-scale, participatory project will be the newest addition to the annual Somerset House courtyard commission series which features international, contemporary artists who exemplify innovative thinking across sustainability and ecology.   

Set in contrast to the neo-classical architecture surrounding the courtyard, Zheng invites visitors to temporarily disconnect from their fast-paced, hyper-connected culture by immersing themselves in the garden that surrounds them and by taking up the activity of drawing. Participants are encouraged to select from ten different species of bamboo arranged in alcoves with seating, to spend time sketching the unique characters of individual leaves on biodegradable paper. Visitors can hear from the artist directly by scanning a QR code, with Zheng’s voice guiding them through the activity, creating a more intimate connection with the artist and in turn, the work itself. When completed, participants’ drawings are composted into the soil to fertilise the garden – completing a cycle of creativity and ecology.  

The artwork’s title Bamboo as Method pays homage to the late 15th century philosopher, Wang Yangming. Wang pursued enlightenment through the practice of gewu zhizhi - the acquisition of knowledge through the investigation of the nature of things, a practice that has inspired Zheng’s intensive study of bamboo. In the face of the challenges of the contemporary world, Zheng finds renewed urgency in paying sustained attention to the more-than-human planet, echoing the timeless mindfulness practiced by Wang. 

Zheng’s commission, as with their overall practice, is informed by eco-queer thinking, which takes a non-binary perspective, redistributing the power that humans are usually assumed to have over nature. Such an approach asks what we can learn from the natural world when we take the time to cultivate deeper and more intimate connections with it. 

 Zheng states, ‘If we really want to move into a sustainable future, we need to treat other forms of life with full respect, intellectually, politically, and aesthetically. Tuning our aesthetic sensibilities to those of plants is one of many ways to join this transformation’. 

 

EVENTS PROGRAMME 

Morgan Stanley Lates  
Wednesday 10 April 2024, 18.00 - 22.00

Courtyard 
www.somersethouse.org.uk/whats-on/morgan-stanley-lates-somerset-house-courtauld-10-April-24

The first Morgan Stanley Lates of 2024 will celebrate Bamboo as Method alongside other parts of Somerset House’s and The Courtauld’s cultural programme.  Doors around the spectacular courtyard will be thrown open for after-hours access, with live music from Livia Rita, a DJ set from Norsicaa, inflatable workshops with Agnes Cameron, plus delicious food from Chubby Dumpling and drinks from KERB

Earth Day Practice with Zheng Bo 
Saturday 20 April 2024 
Courtyard 

As a one-off event celebrating Earth Day, visitors have the opportunity to take part in a drawing session with Zheng Bo. Participants are invited to join the artist, who will be present throughout the whole day, in creating the intricate connections between artmaking and ecology through the meditative practice of drawing.  

In Conversation with Zheng Bo and Sarah Shin
Monday 22 April 2024, 19.00 - 20.00

Screening Room
www.somersethouse.org.uk/whats-on/bamboo-method
 

An in conversation between artist Zheng Bo and writer, researcher and curator Sarah Shin, discussing Zheng's ecologically engaged art practice and their new commission for Somerset House. 

NOTES TO EDITORS   

Dates:  22 February – 28 April 2024
Free
Website: https://www.somersethouse.org.uk/whats-on/zheng-bo-bamboo-method

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About Zheng Bo 

ZHENG Bo is an eco-queer artist of ethnic Bai heritage. Through drawing, dance and film, they cultivate kinship with plants. They have collaborated with ferns in Taiwan, moss in Scandinavia, beech trees in Germany, and an umbrella thorn acacia in the Arabian Desert. For them, art does not arise from human creativity, but more-than-human intimacy. 
 
Zheng Bo lives in a village on the south side of Lantau Island. Guided by Daoist wisdom, they work with both human and nonhuman dancers to grow weedy gardens, biophilia films, and ecosocialist gatherings. Their ecological practice contributes to an emergent Earth-centric perspective.   
 
Recent exhibitions include institutional solos at Gropius Bau (Berlin) and Göteborgs Konsthall (Gothenburg), public commissions at Jameel Arts Centre (Dubai) and Rockbund Art Museum (Shanghai), and participation in Venice, Liverpool, and Sydney biennials. Their works are in the collections of Tate (London), Power Station of Art (Shanghai), and Hammer Museum (Los Angeles), among others. 
 
Zheng Bo teaches at the School of Creative Media, City University of Hong Kong. 

About Somerset House
Step Inside, Think Outside      
  
As the home of cultural innovators, Somerset House is a site of origination, with a cultural programme offering alternative perspectives on the biggest issues of our time. We are a place of joy and discovery, where everyone is invited to Step Inside and Think Outside.     
  
From our historic site in the heart of London, we work globally across art, creativity, business, and non-profit, nurturing new talent, methods and technologies. Our resident community of creative enterprises, arts organisations, artists and makers, makes us a centre of ideas, with most of our programme home-grown.      
  
We sit at the meeting point of artistic and social innovation, bringing worlds and minds together to create surprising and often magical results. Our spirit of constant curiosity and counter perspective is integral to our history and key to our future.