Visual of Next Gen: De-exctincting the mammoth with Wendi Yan
Visual Essay

Next Gen: De-exctincting the mammoth with Wendi Yan

What if a majestic mammoth found herself resurrected by humans into our modern age? What wisdom would this animal offer, if she brought back her memories from 10,000 years ago? This is the narrative of the Tale of the Mammoth Goddess, an animated short by artist Wendi Yan.

Wendi Yan, born in Beijing, creates imaginary worlds using video games, movies, and sculptures. By using historical storytelling through future-oriented simulations, she helps us to cope with the disorientations we might experience about today’s technological landscape. In her animated short Tale of the Mammoth Goddess, you follow a resurrected mammoth on her journey from the Pleistocene Park to an abandoned coal mine. Here, she prepares for her inevitable natural demise.

Wendi Yan, Tale of the Mammoth Goddess

Inspired by synthetic biology, mammoth de-extinction, and the historical upheavals that shaped our past, Yan crafted a story where mammoths emerge not only as ancient creatures, but also as cultural witnesses to the rise and fall of human civilizations. For this, she drew inspiration from her research on the cultural and scientific history of the Arctic, as well as her personal experience in Svalbard, Norway, during the Arctic Circle Art & Science Expedition.

"Mammoth Technology is a theory and practice of esoteric progress; it is performing scientific surgery on the formation of history. It is probably modernity staring back at itself"

In Yan’s short, the word "mammoth" means more than just the big furry creature you see in the movies. Her self-coined term "mammoth technology" represents the immense amount of time that has passed and the power that certain technologies might hold because of that.

Wendi Yan, Tale of the Mammoth Goddess

By using Unreal Engine, AI-generated voice overs, and 3D software, Yan blends folkloric elements into world-building where she presents a mammoth goddess who chooses to sit through the rituals presented to her. But, she doesn’t seem to care too much. Being a bit lazy, she avoids doing what she's supposed to do and lives life the way she wants.

Tale of the Mammoth Goddess questions where we fit in nature and what we should do with the responsibilities that come with our technological capabilities. The heart of the story questions the idea that humans are the center of everything when we talk about protecting nature.

Wendi Yan, Tale of the Mammoth Goddess

A mammoth brought back to life might make us think about our responsibility to take care of the planet and understand the importance of all living things, not just people. After all, with memories stretching back millennia, the Mammoth Goddess might just be the ultimate symbol of ecological knowledge and ancestral wisdom.

Watch Tale of the Mammoth Goddess here!

This story is part of Next Generation, a series in which we give young makers a platform to showcase their work. Your work here? Get in touch and plot your coordinates as we navigate our future together.