"White Bear" depicts polar bears in captivity and their artificial habitats globally; it also attempts to shed light on issues concerning animals in captivity. 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.
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 missions of conservation, research and education seem overshadowed by the interest of public entertainment.
Stereotypical behaviour (neurotic repetitive motion) are common among captive polar bears; they are recorded in videos "The March of the Great White Bear":
*Kendy Tzu-Yun Teng/ PhD Candidate, Faculty of Veterinary Science, University of Sydney
*I-lly Cheng/ Composer-Live Electronics, Conservatorium van Amsterdam