Zheng Bo’s “The Soft and Weak Are Companions of Life”
              Pedro Neves Marques
              The influence of translations of Taoist texts, including the I Ching and the Tao Te Ching, on early twentieth-century ecology in the West and its post-war cybernetic revival is well-known. According to the teachings of Lao Tzu and centuries of Taoist tradition, the Way is found in the encounter of differences: a managed equilibrium, or flow, between hand and plant, culture and nature. Zheng Bo’s practice often expresses this tension in ways that acknowledge the different ecological philosophies of East and West while queering the relations—and expectations—that humans have about plants. His first solo show in Portugal, at Kunsthalle Lissabon, includes two sets of works: “Drawing Life” (2020–ongoing), a new series of framed charcoal drawings depicting plants the artist found during his walks in Hong Kong’s Lantau Island, where he lives, during the Covid-19 pandemic; and “Pteridophilia” (2016–ongoing), a series of four videos in which naked men in a Taiwanese forest—in groups, in pairs, or alone—have sex with ferns by licking, biting, stroking, and rubbing them. While the new drawings reflect on the tension between urban development and plant life, the four “Pteridophilia” videos, projected onto a gallery wall, broaden the meaning of queerness by engaging with ecosexuality, a …

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