Qiutong Zhai
Composting, more-than-human
An art installation in a grey room created with composting equipment including woodchips on a table

Qiutong Zhai, Composting Knowledge, 2022. Courtesy the artist.



Biodiversity, Ecosystems and Livelihoods

Composting, more-than-human

Geo-temporality, Non-human

Qiutong Zhai


Temporal Forever

Different installations in a white room.

Qiutong Zhai, Temporal Forever, 2023. Courtesy the artist.

From the artist:

"However free we may seem, there is scarcely a being on earth that exists solely within itself. We too are nonhuman and material, and in turn, vital players in the world. The colonial rational language of humanity proves insufficient when attempting to articulate the complexities of Life itself. In this specific, seemingly fixed, human-centric perception of time, temporal forever negotiates sensory object relations in temporal spaces. While speculating different, non-linear object temporalities, I learn by my own hand and sense deeply the strength and knowledge inherently embedded in each being around me."

Composting Knowledge

An art installation in a grey room created with composting equipment including woodchips on a table

Qiutong Zhai, Composting Knowledge, 2022. Courtesy of the artist.

Composting Knowledge is an ongoing experimental network for knowledge production, initiated by ruruHaus and nourished at Hafenstrasse 76 in Kassel. Based on the idea of collectively cultivated compost, it brings together various organic materials and resources – such as knowledge, time, ideas, spaces, or funds – to be mixed, processed, and exchanged with the support of the participating organisms, generating beneficial soils to be spread in order to activate and grow local and interlocal projects as well as cooperations among the network.  

Contributions including onsite activation of upcycled materials including natural, artificial and microbial friends brought visitors closer to more than human life. Poster designs shown on site were activated with friends on Hawaii Island, and more to immerse in the sea of our knowing together with indigenous worldviews from the Philippines and Pacific cultures. 



Qiutong Zhai

Zhai Qiutong is a Chinese-born artist, writer and researcher based in Singapore. She contemplates human relationship with the surrounding by recognizing the scale of geological time and the non-linear cycles of time across beings outside the human-centric colonial perception of time. She works on hybrid and interdisciplinary projects that combine emotional responses with natural phenomena, understanding her role as artist to formulate relationships and observations that concern earthly temporalities and ecological affects. She works with soil, maps, fungi, seaweed, diagrams, rocks and drawings that meditate on our shared relationships to this planet, through processes of collecting, assembling, deep listening and storytelling. Her material-based artistic approach often takes shape as a lively compost heap, where each ingredient is a non-definable knowledge pot, cultivating artistic forms and ideas in a symbiotic way. Zhai uses her installation and writings as a tool to hold space for audiences to imagine new, non-linear narratives of the larger-than-human world that look into simultaneously the past and the future.

Zhai is a member of the Composting Knowledge Network and an artist in residence at lumbung: documenta fifteen. She has worked with communities across Singapore, Vietnam, Japan, Germany and the UK, documenting oral histories of ancestral knowledge and caretaking spaces of conversation and connecting knots. Her work has been exhibited in Shodoshima, London, Kassel and Singapore. Her contributions to Arts and Humanities publications include a special issue of Object Lessons Space and bylines with Art & Market. Zhai completed her BA in Arts and Humanities from Yale-NUS College and is an affiliate alumnus at Slade School of Fine Art, UCL.

Selected Exhibitions

Selected Solo Exhibitions

2023, Open Studio, Termite Growth Season 1, Termite Studio, Shodoshima, Japan
2023 Solo Exhibition, temporal forever, Georgette Chen Art Studio, Singapore

Selected Group Exhibitions

2022 Group Exhibition, For the Time Being, hARTSlane Gallery, London, United Kingdom

Selected Residencies

2023, Artist in Residence, Shodoshima Artist in Residence, Shodoshima, Japan

2022, Artist in Residence, Ba-bau AIR, Hanoi, Vietnam

2022 Artist in Residence, Composting Knowledge Network, documenta fifteen, Kassel, Germany

Selected Awards

2023, Capability and Development Grant, National Arts Council, Singapore