Resurrecting Woolly Mammoth: Speculative Aesthetics in the Anthropocene

Kiu-wai Chu

1Nanyang Technological University, Jurong, Singapore

How do what we see as scientific concepts such as “mutations”, “genetical engineering”, “cloning”, and “de-extinction/ resurrection biology” of plant and animal species, and the imaginations and depictions of them in artistic and cinematic representations reflect our changing relationships with nonhuman beings in the epoch we call the Anthropocene? To what extent are these depictions of animals in the bygone era, and the imaginations of their revival in the near future, above everything, a critique of the global capitalist expansion and the growing socioenvironmental injustice against the developing world in present Asia? Focusing on a transnational documentary Genesis 2.0 (2018, dir. Christian Frei) that journeys through new Siberian islands, South Korea and South China to depict how scientists collaborate internationally in hope to turn the de-extinction of woolly mammoths into reality; and juxtaposing it with representations of imagined, genetically modified animal hybrids in recent Asian films and artworks such as Bong Joonho’s Okja (2017) and Singaporean artist Robert Renhui Zhao’s photography series, this presentation conceptualizes the eco-modern, speculative aesthetics in contemporary visual culture, particularly in Asian contexts, and explores how extinct and genetically modified animals continue to haunt, communicate and inform us in unexpected ways.


Kiu-wai Chu is Assistant Professor (Green Humanities and Chinese Studies) at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. His research focuses on environmental humanities, and Chinese and Southeast Asian cinema and visual art. His work has appeared in Transnational Ecocinema; Journal of Chinese Cinemas; Chinese Environmental Humanities and elsewhere.


The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

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