2014 - Ongoing
"White Bear" depicts polar bears in captivity and their artificial habitats globally; it also attempts to shed light on issues concerning captive animals-exhibits. Currently, the project was executed in 26 sites across Europe and China.
"White Bear" is not about polar bears — it studies the visible symptoms amid animals on display and their artificial habitats by focusing on one specific species. These habitats are designed to satisfy both the spectators (audience) and the dwellers (animals). In other words, with their effort to mimic the arctic environment, the uncanny structures combined “nature”, "home" and “stage”. Juxtaposed with man-made backgrounds, the enclosures and their furry protagonists formed visions filled with contrasting elements — grasslands, plateaus, swimming pools, car tires, fake seals, stone stairs, painted icebergs, yachts, airplanes, and even skyscrapers. Under limited space and resources, there are various issues lurking beneath their surfaces.
Due to climate change and the resulting habitat loss, it may sounds reasonable to keep and nourish vulnerable species in controlled environments; however, for certain species, reintroduction is not trivial. In fact, according to EAZA (European Association of Zoos and Aquaria), there has never been any possible reintroduction program for polar bears due to the diminishing habitats.
Maintaining the welfare of zoo animals is an intricate task that juggles the constraints of expense and enclosure sizes — a delicate balance that may easily be disrupted. The existence of white bears in exhibits portrays the ambiguity of modern zoos. Almost always promoted as exotic tourist-magnets, the bears are often the singularity points at which contemporary justifications of zoos falls into question — the mission of conservation, research and education seem challenged by the interest of entertainment.
Photograph dimensions: 110cm(H) x 138cm(W)
Video: The March of the Great White Bear (3'29")
Stereotypical behaviour (neurotic repetitive motion) are common among captive polar bears; they are recorded in videos "The March of the Great White Bear": www.shengwenlo.com/video
*Tzu-Yun Teng/ PhD Candidate, Faculty of Veterinary Science, University of Sydney
*I-lly Cheng/ Composer-Live Electronics, Conservatorium van Amsterdam