Preview – Earth as History: Moving Images and Ecologies in Southeast Asia, University of Westminster, December 7

A free seminar exploring films and moving image works about Southeast Asia/by Southeast Asian artists as examples of alternative narratives to the Anthropocene – the interdisciplinary exploration of human history and Earth history.

From land and jungle to animals and ocean, many works about Southeast Asia/by Southeast Asian artists explore the relationship between the earth and the historical and political contexts of the region. Yet this aspect is rarely discussed, in comparison to other frameworks frequently associated with Southeast Asian cinema scholarship, such as the roles of gender, audience reception, and transnationality.

This seminar is organised by the Centre for Research and Education in Arts and Media (CREAM), University of Westminster, and supported by the British Academy’s Visiting Fellowships Programme under the UK Government’s Rutherford Fund. Reservation is essential.

Key speakers will be Professors David Martin-Jones (University of Glasgow) and Lucy Davis (Aalto University). The seminar will be guided by two leading questions. First, using the works of Southeast Asian artists/works about Southeast Asia, in what ways can Southeast Asian cinema and moving image be understood when approached from an ecologically oriented perspective? Second, how do ecocritical readings of these works contribute to global dialogues in the study of the moving image and the Anthropocene?

By viewing these works through an ecological lens, the evening seminar will discuss narratives and aesthetics whereby Southeast Asian artists visualise the relationship between humankind and the world in an age of ecological challenges.

Schedule (may be subject to change)

5.00pm – Introduction

5.15pm – 6.00pm: Professor David Martin-Jones, University of Glasgow

Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s masterpiece, Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (2010), is much discussed. Yet there is something fresh to say about it if we attend to the director’s stated ecocritical inspirations for the film. Such an approach can also reveal new ways of thinking about what unites a world of cinemas and the position of Uncle Boonmee within it – by considering the film’s engagement with the Earth’s memories, and the link it draws between South-East Asia’s recent Cold War history and the world history of the Anthropocene.

David Martin-Jones is Professor of Film Studies, University of Glasgow, UK. His research interrogates the intersections between cinema and philosophical issues like time, identity, ethics and ecology. He is the author/editor of eight books which cover a range of topics related to the study of a world of cinemas. His latest book is Cinema Against Doublethink: Ethical Encounters with the Lost Pasts of World History (2018, Routledge)

6.00pm – 6.45pm: Professor Lucy Davis, Aalto University

The Migrant Ecologies Project (MEP, is a collaborative initiative, bringing together long-term, interdisciplinary but field-grounded inquiries into questions of how to think and practice ecologically. Railtrack Songmaps comprises a cumulative series of collaborative works including film, multi-media, installation, art books, all evolving from explorations of relations between people and birds along the former Malaysian railtracks at Tanglin Halt, a quarter of Singapore city that faces considerable social and environmental change.

Lucy Davis is a visual artist, art writer and founder of The Migrant Ecologies Project. Her international publishing, and multi-award winning film and exhibition practice encircles natures and cultures, materialities and memories, primarily but not exclusively in Southeast Asia. She was also founding faculty member of the School of Art Design & Media Nanyang Technological University 2005-2016. In 2016 she was forced to leave Singapore in 2016 following a government intervention in her residency status. She is currently Professor of Practice in the Master’s Degree Programme in Visual Cultures, Curating and Contemporary Art at Aalto University, Finland.

6.45pm – 7.30pm: Roundtable (Moderator: Graiwoot Chulphongsathorn, CREAM, University of Westminster)

7.30pm – 7.50pm: Closing Short Film: 500,000 Years (2016) by Chai Siris

In Lampang, at the archaeological site where people found the fossils of a Homo Erectus seventeen years ago, nobody cares about this scientific discovery anymore. Only locals occasionally go there for spiritual activity. One evening, an outdoor cinema truck goes there to screen a film as an offering to the ancient ghost, Kohka man, and during the screening something unexpected happens.

Followed by drinks at Regent Street Cinema Bar (pay bar).

This workshop takes place in conjunction with ‘Earth as History: Moving Images and Ecologies in Southeast Asia’ a programme at the Close-Up Centre, December 9, 1.30pm – 3.30pm.

Registration at Eventbrite.