Spatial Histories and the Capitalocene in Southeast Asian artists' moving image

Activity: Talk or presentation typesPresentation


Spatial Histories and the Capitalocene in Southeast Asian artists' moving image

The term Anthropocene has been critiqued for failing to adequately acknowledge the disproportionate influence of fossil fuel capitalism and imperialism on the ongoing environmental crisis and how its effects are unevenly experienced across the Global South and North. Alternative conceptual frameworks—the Capitalocene, the Chthulucene and the Plantationocene—that seek to address these inequalities have been offered. This paper will focus on one of these terms: the Capitalocene and will consider its usefulness for developing a critical vocabulary to describe and theorise recent films and video works from Southeast Asia that address themes of infrastructural development and both colonial and contemporary processes of resource extractivism. In doing so, I follow T.J. Demos’s conceptualisation of “the extractivist logic of the Capitalocene.”

The paper will discuss this concept in relation to the work of three filmmakers and artists from Thailand, Vietnam, and Cambodia that similarly draw attention to the ways that present day environmental concerns are intertwined with historical legacies of colonial expansionism across the region: Sutthirat Supaparinya’s “electricity generation series” (2012—); Nguyen Phuong Linh’s Memories of a Blind Elephant (2014-16) and Danech San’s A Million Years (2018).

Referencing local cosmologies and belief systems, these works also reveal an openness to pre-colonial temporalities and even deep time. The paper will consider how through these connections, these works from Southeast Asia draw attention to the asymmetrical power relations that result from the loss of Indigenous land rights and cultures, and the exploitation of the natural environment for capitalist purposes across the region.

This research forms part of a co-authored book and website project with Dr Jasmine Nadua Trice on film and media organising in Southeast Asia, please see: for more information.
Period27 May 202129 May 2021
Event titleDoing Theory in Southeast Asia
Event typeConference
LocationHong Kong , Hong KongShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational