Project description, EXTINCT! / EXPLO!

Project deskription EXTINCT! / EXPLO!   © Linus Ersson, 2018


I have this dramatic image in my mind of a dark mammoth stepping out of an explosion in the background like a Hollywood action hero. Stampeding the earth and surviving the human made Armageddon behind. Revenging the dysfunctional mammolephants that are the effect of years of genetic experimenting before resurrecting one living mammoth.
I’m going to present a show with a heavy dark clay mammoth in the middle, with white porcelain tusks and surrounded by sculpted yellow, orange and red explosions breaking up the exhibition space.

Besides the aesthetic effect of combining the dark and heavy raw mammoth with colorful destructive explosions there are many possible readings in this combo. There can be ideas of progress or regression, man’s ability to create, in this case life, as well as destruct or relationship to nature and even potential catastrophe and extinction of life as we know it.

Biography Linus Ersson

Linus Ersson is a contemporary artist and craftist born in 1970 and based in Stockholm. He received his MFA from the ceramics department at Konstfack (University College of Arts, Crafts and Design) in Stockholm 1998. He has had four solo exhibitions in Stockholm and Oslo and has twice received commissions from The Arts Grants Committee in Sweden. In 2012 he was invited to participate in Nature addicts fund academy in Kassel in cooperation with dOCUMENTA(13). As a member of the Swedish Arts and Crafts group, ‘We Work In A Fragile Material’ he has exhibited in New York, London, Oslo, Stockholm and Gothenburg.

Read my CV here.

About the project

In a near future wooly mammoths will stroll the earth again and for myself and my son who loves prehistoric animals, seeing a living mammoth would be a dream come true. There are three different methods of making that happen and several ongoing projects, all more or less involving genetic engineering.
Mammoth, clay model, Height:16cmMammoth, clay model, Height:16cm


The first method is based on recent findings of DNA in liquid blood of a frozen mammoth who has been resting in the permafrost for thousands of years. With this DNA researchers might be able to breed mammoth embryos which can be operated into elephants who will carry and give birth to it. Second method is cutting and pasting in elephant’s DNA adding genes which controls body hair, subcutaneous fat, size of tusks etc. and in this way literally constructing an animal similar to a mammoth. As well as in the first method elephants will be used to carry the modified embryos. The third method, which might be considered as the most humane, uses long term breeding in the same way dogs has been bred into hundreds of different sorts.

“In my view though the implications of genetical engineering is of another kind and raises other questions. It’s not about surviving of man but rather who will survive. In the prolonging it’s about aesthetics.” LE

Of course, there are a lot of ethical implications with all these methods and real bad deal for the elephants who will be part of these experiments. Genetical engineering is controversial and it’s hard to assess the consequences and balance them against possible benefits.

In the case of the mammoths it is hard to see any benefits besides showing them, and making money as a zoo-keeper, but there are some more serious projects. In Pleistocene park in the north of Siberia they are trying to restore a huge Mammoth steppe ecosystem to keep the permafrost from unfreezing and prevent global warming.

Believers in the ideas of progress and technology tend to diminish the dangers of genetical engineering with arguments that any research can be potentially dangerous in the wrong hands. In my view though the implications of genetical engineering is of another kind and raises other questions. It’s not about surviving of man but rather who will survive. In the prolonging it’s about aesthetics. With genetical engineering we can alter properties of life to our liking. We can add what we think is good (beautiful) and remove what we think is bad (ugly). Life becomes dependent of prevalent values and as such they differ both with individuals and over time. Who then decides what will be allowed to exist and what will not?

Throughout my artistic practice I’ve had an interest in the dualism of enjoying life, beauty, fiction, food, travel though at the same time understanding that the images are not always true, a sense that there is always a cost which could be ethical, ideological, humane or other. The case of the mammoths interests me of the same reasons. On the one hand seeing a living mammoth would be great and on the other hand there are the ethical implications.

Linus Ersson