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Zheng Bo: Pteridophilia

June 22 - September 17, 2023
Fenway Gallery

Hong Kong–based video artist Zheng Bo, like all of the artists featured in the exhibition Presence of Plants in Contemporary Art across the Gardner Museum, uses living plant material to create their artwork. Their videos capture euphoric sensual encounters between human subjects and a lush, verdant, life-affirming natural world. Pteridophilia immerses us in the subtropical ferns of a Taiwanese forest as experienced by six young men intent upon radical forms of interspecies communication. In this case, Zheng contemplates how queering ecological thought might change our mental, physical, and metaphysical relations with nature.

Pteridophilia explores the eco-queer potential... young men walk into a forest in Taiwan and engage in intimate contact with ferns. They make love to the plants, sensing each other’s textures, smells, and pleasures. They rely on bodies, rather than languages, to build affective relations. Only when we extend our imagination can we learn to appreciate [the] complex existence of all living things. Only then will we learn to live more intelligently on this planet.

— Zheng Bo

Tropical greenery.

Zheng Bo (b. 1974, China), Pteridophilia, 2016, installation view. This horizontal image shows a dimly lit room with brown tile flooring and a projected image with small speakers to either side. To the left of the image is a large grouping of ferns and potted plants and to the right of the screen is a single potted ferm. The projected image shows a thick green forest. The foreground is covered by a variety of low lying plants, especially ferns. Some trees rise in the background and a bit of light shines through them. The forest ground appears to slope downward toward the viewer, with a rocky, mossy path visible in the middle of the foreground. In the upper right portion of the image is a nude male figure standing with his back to the viewer. The word Pteridophilia is printed in green font across the center of this projected image.



Image: Zheng Bo (b. 1974, China), Pteridophilia, (detail), 2016. 4k video with sound featuring. Approximately 17 minutes. Courtesy the artist / Kiang Malingue Gallery, Hong Kong.


Zheng Bo: Pteridophilia is part of Presence of Plants in Contemporary Art, an exhibition featuring work by contemporary artists who practice with living plant material. The exhibition features established works and site-specific installations from British team Ackroyd &Harvey; Los Angeles-based conceptual artist Piero Golia; Swedish artist Henrik Håkansson; American multi-media artist Rashid Johnson; and Welsh conceptual artist Cerith Wyn Evans in the Hostetter Gallery A vertical garden created by environmentalist Natalie Jeremijenko is featured on the Anne H. Fitzpatrick Façade.



Presence of Plants in Contemporary Art - Multiple Artists

Hostetter Gallery | June 22 - September 17, 2023

Presence of Plants in Contemporary Art - Natalie Jeremijenko: Declaration of Interdependence

Anne H. Fitzpatrick Façade | June 13 - October 3, 2023

Contemporary art projects at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum are supported in part by the Barbara Lee Program Fund.

The Artist-in-Residence program is directed by Pieranna Cavalchini, Tom and Lisa Blumenthal Curator of Contemporary Art. Funding is also provided for site-specific installations of new work on the Anne H. Fitzpatrick Façade on Evans Way.

The Museum receives operating support from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, which is supported by the state of Massachusetts and the National Endowment for the Arts.