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Evidence of Things Not Seen




Evidence of Things Not Seen, 2019 - Ongoing, Film Still

7 Channel Video, HD, Sound, Dimensions Variable.

Commissioned by the HE Art Museum, Guangzhou.


This is a story of a man who has decided to stop to growth of his construction business for the birds.

As one of the largest urbanized areas in the world, the urbanization of the Pearl River Delta is growing and expanding incredibly fast. When I first arrived in Shunde, Guangzhou I was worried because I could not see or hear any birds for the first hour. I was wondering where have all the birds gone? In recent years, birds have been used as indicators of any changes that might be in the environment. By looking closely at the types of birds and the number of birds, we can receive information from the environment.

I was surprised to find a private sanctuary for birds in the middle of the city. Sadly, this has also become one of the ways in which wild birds can survive in an urbanised city. When someone decides that birds should have a space to live in.

I was introduced to Mr Xian, who is also known as the Bird Uncle of Shunde. Mr Xian rented a land of 180 hectares to grow bamboo for his construction business in 1998. He uses the bamboo to create scaffolding for construction sites. When migratory birds started to build their homes in his bamboo forest, Mr Xian decided to stop harvesting the bamboo and create a wet bamboo forest for the birds. He dug a moat around the bamboo forest so that the birds could have a barrier from the city. He is also obsessed with observing the birds. He built several bird-watching hides in the sanctuary to observe the large numbers of birds around the bamboo forest. He keeps visitors out of the sanctuary as he believes that any human presence would disturb the birds. He continues to rent the space for the birds.

When I visited the bird sanctuary, it was the only place in the city that I could hear so many birds. As nobody has really surveyed the number and assemblage of birds in this forest, I volunteered to survey the forest with an ecologist. The approach of the work was to document the lives of these birds in this forest, as well as to tell a story of mutual co-existence and respect that Mr Xian has with the thousands of birds in his sanctuary. It is very much a work of trying to understand what the birds are trying to tell us as to understand what would compel Mr Xian to continually fund the preservation of this forest for the birds.

We installed a total of 20 remote sensing cameras in October 2019. An exhibition of the first year of videos/images will open on the 1st of October at HE Art Museum in Guangzhou. 


We plan to document the birds as long as we can.


Commissioned by the HE Art Museum, for the exhibition, From The Mundane World.


Concept: Robert Zhao Renhui

Music: George Chua, Unveil from the Album, Evidence of Things Not Seen, 2006

Special Thanks : Feng Bo Yi, Shawshu, Xian Quanhui, Maiya, He Yanyu, Wu Zhenyu, Luo Junlang

Inspired by the album, Evidence of Things Not Seen by George Chua, 2006.


For more information on the exhibition, click here.


Installation View of Evidence of Things Not See, HE Art Museum, 2021


Evidence of Things Not Seen, Video Shorts/Trailer



Evidence of Things Not Seen, 2 Channel View (out of 7)

Evidence of Things Not Seen, Film Still


A view of the bird sanctuary in the foreground with new developments in the horizon. As land around the sanctuary is sold to be developed, Mr Xian’s sanctuary remains one of the last refuge for the birds in the Pearl River Delta in Guangzhou.


A former teahouse that belonged to Mr Xian that was intentionally abandoned after egrets and herons started to nest near the pond. Mr Xian also keeps people out of the forest so that the birds can roost and nest in peace.


Obsessed with looking and observing the birds, Mr Xian has built several observation towers to observe the birds.




Copyright 2020, Institute of Critical Zoologists