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Antennae: The Journal of Nature in Visual Culture

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Antennae: The Journal of Nature in Visual Culture

Antennae: The Journal of Nature in Visual Culture

Antennae: The Journal of Nature in Visual Culture

Antennae: The Journal of Nature in Visual Culture

Antennae: The Journal of Nature in Visual Culture

Antennae: The Journal of Nature in Visual Culture

Antennae: The Journal of Nature in Visual Culture

Antennae: The Journal of Nature in Visual Culture

Antennae: The Journal of Nature in Visual Culture

Antennae: The Journal of Nature in Visual Culture

The overlapping fields of the environmental humanities, posthumanism, human-animal studies, and critical plant studies still have a long way to go in order to diversify their philosophical reference points as well as truly incorporate aesthetic, material, and processual registers that do not originate, or that are not implicitly aligned, with the western tradition. Over the past ten years we have become aware that reaching beyond the comfort zone of academic research requires a committed engagement with a decolonization of our thinking.  


It is in this context that Antennae presents a double volume entitled ‘Uncontainable Natures’ co-edited by Southeast Asia experts Kevin Chua, Lucy Davis, and Nora Taylor. The diversity, wealth, and breadth of content and perspectives gathered across the two volumes outline myriad opportunities to rethink the foundations of our practices as well as reconsider the directions of our inquiries. This project makes readily available a substantial body of work, which despite its importance and influence in Southeast Asia remains often difficult to access in other parts of the world. We hope that the contributions featured in the two volumes will become staples in syllabi across the arts and humanities and that they will inform the practices of scholars and artists alike for years to come.





























ISSUES 54 / 55 — SUMMER 2021 Volumes 1 & 2

uncontainable natures



Editor in Chief of AntennaeProject

11a wonderland 4c mars 5a cinema

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Yet here, now, lay such a great beast before her – contorted and dead, for sure, but incontestably real, draped across a gravel strip between an incineration plant and the uneasy, grey-green waters of the Johor Strait.



by Stefan Benz

1a rise


Alfian Sa’at examines how Malay words have been shaped by plants, namely through analysis of a selected sample of 1) numeral classifiers, 2) concrete nouns, and 3) abstract nouns and other linguistic constructions for conceptual terms. MORE >>


At the cross roads of cryptozoology, archeology,

speleology and rituality, Stéphane Rennesson proposes a visual analysis of the sensory anchors of the magnifying Nāga cosmoecologies at the limit of pure potentialities — from their omnipresence as an icon to the ephemerality and scarcity of their epiphanies.  MORE >>



Challenging the widespread view that globalization invariably signifies a “clash” of cultures, anthropologist Anna Tsing develops friction in its place as a metaphor for the diverse and conflicting social interactions that

make up our contemporary world.  MORE >>

2b keramat


Keramat graves may be found in many parts of the Malay world, often Malay or Muslim graves of significant and holy persons which have become shrines. In this article, Faisal Husni examines the relationship between these keramat graves and their location, with a focus on trees, heights and their proximity to water.  MORE >>


This essay discusses the biophysical politics and strategies inhering within Charles Lim Yi Yong’s SEASTATE 9: proclamation garden (2019), an installation for the annual Roof Garden commission at the National Gallery Singapore. MORE >>

8a proclamation


In cataloging various flora and fauna in and around Malaysia, this bestiary tackles issues of biodiversity, climate change, and the eternal question of being haunted by our future past. We set this alongside the transcript of a

conversation between Siew and Chin at the Ilham Gallery, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in September 2018. MORE >>

3a local


Since 2012, Trương Minh Quý has become a part of new generation of Southeast Asian filmmakers whose works have been shown at international film festivals and art spaces.



This interview with Chiang Mai based multi-media artist Sutthirat Supaparinya discusses her practice, focusing in particular on her

“electricity generation series”.  MORE >>

9b Mekong 4b mars


Through the story of one fisherman, Gung, MAP Office delves into issues of ecological devastation, economic adversity, and state policy.  MORE >>


Ghost Island

text by MAP Office [Gutierrez + Portefaix]


May Adadol Ingawanij’s text, written in the mode of creative non-fi ction, is based on her curation of the project Animistic Apparatus.



Stories of animistic cinema

text by May Adadol Ingawanij

10a ghost 5b cinema 11b wonderland


In 2015, a dead sperm whale was found floating in Singapore waters. Although the species has

been sighted in Southeast Asia, this was the first such record for Singapore. The Lee Kong

Chian Natural History Museum recovered the carcass, studied the remains and prepared the

skeleton for display. MORE >>


A heart the size of an armchair

text by Yu-Mei Balasingamchow



What happens when covid-time thrusts upon us a time of both deep need, and distant caring? At a time when we are collectively going inwards and discovering what we have neglected or overlooked, the quest for insight renders us teetering precariously on boundaries of visibility.


Myco-fish Swimming


13a mycofish 14c wheat


This is a selection of letters written to a wheat grain that had been found in the straw stuffing of a 133 year dead salt water crocodile

shot at the mouth of the Serangoon river in Singapore in 1888.

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text by Ng Huiying

images by Michelle Lai and Agnieszka Cieszanowska


main text by Lucy Davis

letters by Marian Pastor Roces,

Nguyễn Trinh Thi,

Harriet Rabe von Froreich,

Nils Bubandt and Anna Tsing,

Faisal Husni, Marietta Radomska


Grain of Wheat


Letters to a 19th century



0a spirit ecologies

FEATURED IN VOLUME 1  Yu-Mei Balasingamchow | Nils Bubandt |Sharon Chin | Agnieszka Cieszanowska | Kevin Chua

Graiwoot Chulphongsathorn | Lucy Davis | Ng Huiying | Faisal Husni | May Adadol Ingawanij | Michelle Lai | Philippa Lovatt

MAP Office [Gutierrez + Portefaix]  | Vipash Purichanont | Trương Minh Quý | Marietta Radomska | Stéphane Rennesson

Marian Pastor Roces | Alfian Sa’at | Zedeck Siew |Sutthirat Supaparinya | Adele Tan | Nora Taylor | Nguyễn Trinh Thi

Anna Tsing  | Harriet Rabe von Froreich


The rise of the nāgas

text and images by Stéphane Rennesson


The keramat grave on the

green hill by the sea

text by Faisal Husni


The local is an alternate reality

text by Zedeck Siew, Sharon Chin

and Lee Weng Choy


Trương Minh Quý:

A Vietnamese on Mars

Graiwoot Chulphongsathorn interviews

Trương Minh Quý

Translator: Nhân Nguyễn


Talking in trees

text by Alfian Sa’at


This earth, this island Borneo

text by Anna Tsing


Planting and imaging

precarity in Charles Lim’s

SEASTATE 9: proclamation garden

text by Adele Tan


Tracing ecological histories

of the Mekong

Philippa Lovatt interviews Sutthirat Supaparinya


Edge of the Wonderland

Nora Taylor interviews Vipash Purichanont

53 COVER 54 Cover 55 COVER 8 labyrinth 1 swirl

FEATURED IN VOLUME 2  Jose Santos P. Ardivilla | Martin Bartelmus | Kevin Chua

Lucy Davis | Darcie DeAngelo | Pujita Guha | Garima Gupta | James Jack Soumya James

Ayesha Keshani | Art Labor | Nguyễn Phuong Linh | Ray Langenbach

Yee I-Lann | Samuel Lee | Tammy Nguyen | Oanh Phi Phi | Abhijan Toto | Ylan Vo| Jason Wee Tintin Wulia | Midori Yamamura



In this essay, Kevin Chua reads Vietnam-based artist Oanh Phi Phi’s lacquer work through the lens of ecology. Instead of the familiar story of lacquer as essential to national belonging and identity, Oanh Phi Phi – in testing the limits and potential of the medium – is engaged in a project of unbinding lacquer’s history.  MORE >>


Lacquer’s ecology, or the swirl

text: Kevin Chua

images: Oanh Phi Phi


Archetypes: Cordillera's labyrinth

text: Midori Yamamura


37 heavens and 32 hells, an imposing bas-relief at Angkor Wat, vividly juxtaposes heavenly pleasures with torturous punishments in the hells. The contrasting tranquil vegetation in the heavens and the frenzied environment in the hells mirror the occupants’ deportment.


The ‘37 Heavens

and 32 Hells’

15 hells


text and images: Soumya James

2 together


Through examining her public art interventions since 2014, including within the econo-political ecology of Hong Kong’s informal cardboard waste (OCC) trade route, Tintin Wulia conceptualises “stakeholding”, “field practice”, and “averted vision” in tracing things with Urry’s mobile ethnography. These are methodological concepts for cooperating with common things, to stimulate their eclosion into things-in- common. MORE >>


How things-in-common hold us together

text and images: Tintin Wulia

3 dirt stories


James Jack’s work explores the richness of dirt through stories rooted in our immediate surroundings that resist settler narratives of land. While respectfully touching these sensitive sites of trauma and transition encountered in Vietnam and Singapore, voices from the past emerge. As these temporary dirt windows open and their stories unfold, an opportunity for healing opens as well.  MORE >>


Dirt Stories: Củ Chi & Temasek

text and images: James Jack


4 plastic nation


Ardvilla delves into how Filipino contemporary artists recast identity via plastic’s materiality. The malleability of the plastic material is reflected on the shifting assertions of place, of ritual, and body. MORE >>


Plastic nation

text: Jose Santos P. Ardivilla

 5 verb


This conversation resonates with topical themes pertaining to ecologies, materialities, collaborative practices, decolonisation and politics of display of vernacular craft in contemporary art contexts. MORE >>


Tikar as verb

in conversation: Yee I-Lann and Lucy Davis


The Forest Curriculum addresses the need for a located cosmopolitical imagination of our current ecological era, rejecting the planetarity of the Anthropocene: a geological project that posits the “human” as a singular species inheriting a damaged planet. MORE >>


To speak to the forest

text and images: Pujita Guha and Abhijan Toto for the Forest Curriculum

6 forest 7 darling


Hello Darling is a series of drawings

situated within a larger research project that aims to read the wildlife market in Southeast Asia though the private and collective imaginations of a post-colonial archipelago. These works are a result of an intimate conversation with a taxidermist in Thailand and offer a tender account of the commodity and its maker. MORE >>


Hello darling!

text and images: Garima Gupta


In 1989, Filipino artist Roberto Villanueva premiered his ephemeral artwork, Archetypes: Cordillera’s Labyrinth, at Cultural Center of the Philippines. Built with the Ifugao mountain tribe, this giant walk-in maze of runo reeds was the artist’s postcolonial response to the ecological despoliations that became pronounced during the Marcos regime.  MORE >>

9 salty


After visiting the salt marshes of Camargue, France, where Indochinese laborers during the colonial period, Art Labor collective speaks with artist Nguyễn Phương Linh about her project with salt farmers and rubber plantation owners as a starting point to discuss their interest in the cultivation of natural resources. MORE >>


Salty as sweat.

Red as soil. Soil as blood.

in conversation: Art Labor and

Nguyễn Phương Linh

10 teacher


What does it mean to be an independent artist-researcher teaching in Singapore? Drawing from observations of the environment and the artist’s training as a scientist, inspired by children, fuelled by humour and failure, this case study shows how treating the viewer as a scientist can help the artist create meaningful works. MORE >>


A curious teacher

interviewer: Kevin Chua

Interviewee: Isabelle Desjeux


11 museum


The Taipei Biennial, with its attentiveness to systemically re-forming the categorically ‘natural’ within the museological, names the museum as the metonym and metaphor of natural systems, but also reformulates and redresses what these systems could be. MORE >>


The museum survives us all

text: Jason Wee

12 ecology


This article examines the politics

of picturing ecological crises in The Oceanic, with particular interest in ethnographic discourses and the archive as the main terms of artistic engagement. It also highlights the emergence of the research topic as a curatorial format with expanded temporalities and heightened epistemological stakes. MORE >>


Ecology beyond


text: Samuel Lee

13 altar


Hovering beneath the surface of the Victorian habitat dioramas in The Sarawak Museum are traces of a persistent excess informed by indigenous and local knowledges, expansive ecologies, minor anti- colonialism and a multiplicity of natures. MORE >>


Votive offerings on the altar of science

text: Ayesha Keshani


The cemetery: not just a zonefor the deceased, but a complex aggregation of the living, hungry ghosts, packs of feral dogs, solitary feral cats, pets on leashes, cobras, birds, raptors... The cemetery is the world, and the world is a cemetery. MORE >>



text: Ray Langenbach

14 scotopia


The politics of nature in central Vietnam today reflects a history of encounters between European imagination and local landscape practices. This essay explores a series of vignettes that range from domestic gardening of citrus trees and urban pine groves, to green hills in Huế’s environs and the forests at its mountainous western border.


The trees of Huế

16 trees


textandimages: YlanVo

17 montage


Darcie DeAngelo discusses montage

as a methodological framework for ethnographic fieldwork. DeAngelo conducted research among Cambodian deminers who detected landmines with TNT-sniffing rats. Montage allowed unexpected relationships to emerge, from uncertainty’s relationship to love to human relationships with spirits.


Minefield montage


text by Darcie DeAngelo

18 primate


Primate City is the story about a girl

named Dana Ng who sucks the eyeballs out of a species of primates called the red-shanked douc langurs who live in Danang City.


Primate city


text and images: Tammy Nguyen

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Gandhi highlights the ‘immature politics’ of minor anticolonial movements, in their utopian hope of radical inclusivity “rendering politics into a performance of strange alliance, unlikely kinships, and impossible identification”.



James Jack’s work explores the richness of dirt through stories rooted in our immediate surroundings that resist settler narratives of land. While respectfully touching these sensitive sites of trauma and transition encountered in Vietnam and Singapore, voices from the past emerge. As these temporary dirt windows open and their stories unfold, an opportunity for healing opens as well. MORE >>


text and images: Ylan Vo