Primate Cinema: Apes as Family

Rachel Mayeri, Primate Cinema: Apes as Family, dual screen still 2011
Rachel Mayeri, Primate Cinema: Apes as Family, dual screen still 2011
Rachel Mayeri Primate Cinema Apes as Family 2011 Photo by Matt Chaney
Rachel Mayeri, Primate Cinema: Apes as Family, (still) 2011 cindy kitchen
Rachel Mayeri, Primate Cinema: Apes as Family, (still) 2011 bedroom
Rachel Mayeri, Primate Cinema: Apes as Family, (still) 2011 bedroom

A two-screen video installation made for and with chimpanzees by artist Rachael Mayeri in collaboration with comparative psychologist Dr Sarah Jane Vick.

This documentary outlines their project.

The Project

In Primate Cinema: Apes as Family, the artist imagines a primate social drama in a contemporary urban context and shows this to a chimpanzee audience. Her two-screen video installation juxtaposes the drama enacted by humans in the guise of apes (of a young female city ape befriending a group of outsiders) with mesmerising footage of the reactions of its ape audience at Edinburgh Zoo.

As the watchers of the watching chimps, we perceive - or we imagine - fascination, puzzlement, and flashes of anger in their responses. Sited in different spaces in Los Angeles and Edinburgh we are never sure whether we are seeing a lab, zoo, wildlife park, rumpus room or post-apocalyptic landscape inhabited by half chimp/half humans. Mayeri’s intriguing and amusing story-and-response structure contains darker undercurrents in its contemplation of the lives of our captive close relatives.

To make Primate Cinema: Apes as Family artist Rachel Mayeri collaborated with comparative psychologist Dr Sarah-Jane Vick, testing different styles and genres of film to gauge chimps’ responses and discussing issues around cognition and communication in research primates.   


Rachel Mayeri is a Los Angeles-based artist working at the intersection of art and science exploring subjects ranging from the history of special effects to the human animal.  Her ‘animated documentaries’ often combine motion graphics, live action, documentary, storytelling and Hollywood-style genres.  In 2009 her Primate Cinema: Baboons as Friends (2007), a film noir re-enactment of a baboon social drama with human actors, was presented by The Arts Catalyst as part of Interspecies: artists collaborating with animals in London and Manchester.

Partnerships

Primate Cinema: Apes as Family, a collaboration between Rachel Mayeri and Dr. Sarah Jane Vick, has been commissioned by The Arts Catalyst.

Support

Wellcome Trust Arts Award, Mediterranean Institute of Advanced Studies and Arts Council England. With the kind support and collaboration of Edinburgh Zoo's Budongo Trail.

Websites

Rachel Mayeri

Edinburgh Art Festival

Exhibition tour

Exhibition & Symposium, The Arts Catalyst, London

Primate Cinema: Apes as Family will be shown in a solo exhibition at The Arts Catalyst, 50-54 Clerkenwell Road, London
19 October-13 November 2011


Cinema as Primatology symposium with Rachel Mayeri and Sarah Jane Vick
Tuesday 18 October 2011, 4-6pm
The Crypt, St James Church, Clerkenwell Green, London EC1R 0EA
Admission free, booking essential. Online booking here:

A symposium about the collaborative research which informed the development of Primate Cinema: Apes as Family.
DNA sequencing has placed humans firmly within the great apes, so how do our cognitive abilities differ from those of chimpanzees?  Creativity is considered to be a divide between humans and other species, but do we share basic preferences for novelty and perhaps even form and content with our closest relations? The symposium  explored similarities and differences in perception, cognition and socio-emotional behaviour between humans and chimpanzees, through the perspectives of comparative psychologist Dr Sarah Jane Vick, who studies chimpanzee cognition and behaviour and artist Rachel Mayeri, whose new work Primate Cinema: Apes as Family was made with the chimpanzees at the Budongo Trail, Edinburgh Zoo.
Prof Rachel Mayeri is a Los Angeles-based artist whose work often deals with the intersection of science, art and society. Her videos combine fact and fiction, documentary and storytelling, on topics such as special effects, popular science and cultural disease. She has collaborated with primatologists, anthropologists and psychologists to study primate behaviour, making a series of films responding to these explorations.
Dr Rob La Frenais is curator at The Arts Catalyst. He has an interest in animal studies and primatology stretching back several years and  this has informed a number of his recent curated projects, including Interspecies (2009) and Rachel Mayeri's Primate Cinema: Apes as at Family (2011).
 

Primate Cinema: Apes as Family screening and talk with curator Rob La Frenais
7pm Wednesday 7 December 2011, Nottingham Contemporary, Nottingham

Nottingham Contemporary

 

Exhibition & Salon, Abandon Normal Devices Festival, Liverpool

Primate Cinema: Apes as Family première at AND Festival, Liverpool
29 September-2 October 2011, 11am-6pm
TAO Gallery space, Slater Street, Liverpool

Simian Safari - AND festival Salon event 
Sunday 2 October 2011, 3-5.30pm
Hosted by Rob La Frenais, with Rachel Mayeri and Sarah-Jane Vick.  
What is it that makes us human? Does trying to understand other intelligent species such as chimpanzees or dolphins tell us something about ourselves, our belief that we are somehow unique? In this salon and bus tour of Knowsley Safari Park we explore interspecies communication and whether we can break free of what John Berger called the “loneliness of man as a species”. 

Abandon Normal Devices Festival

Cinema as Primatology - Edinburgh Arts Festival Panel Discussion

Fri 3 August 2012
Edinburgh College of Art, 74 Lauriston Place, Edinburgh, EH3 9DF
A panel discussion about the development of Primate Cinema: Apes as Family being exhibited in the Sculpture Court at Edinburgh College of Art during the Edinburgh Art Festival 2012.
The symposium explored similarities and differences in perception, cognition and socio-emotional behaviour between humans and chimpanzees, through the perspectives of artists Rachel Mayeri and Andrea Roe, and vet Andrew Gardiner who worked on a Wellcome Trust Medical Humanities Project entitled 'Pedigree Chums: science, medicine and the remaking of the dog in the 20th century', collaborating with colleagues at CHSTM, Manchester. 
The panel discussion was chaired by Rob La Frenais, who commissioned Rachel Mayeri's video installation Primate Cinema: Apes as Family.
 

THE MAKING OF PRIMATE CINEMA, EDINBURGH ZOO

Thu 2 August 2012
Budongo Trail (first floor theatre)
Edinburgh Zoo, 134 Corstorphine Road, Edinburgh EH12 6TS, Scotland, UK
A film documenting artist Rachel Mayeri's collaborative research process with Dr Sarah Jane Vick.
In Primate Cinema: Apes as Family, the artist imagines a primate social drama in a contemporary urban context and shows this to a chimpanzee audience. Her two-screen video installation juxtaposes the drama enacted by humans in the guise of apes (of a young female city ape befriending a group of outsiders) with mesmerising footage of the reactions of its ape audience at Edinburgh Zoo.
Research over 2010-11 took place in different spaces in Los Angeles and Edinburgh, with much filming in the Budongo Trail at Edinburgh Zoo.  In the final work, we are never sure whether we are seeing a lab, zoo, wildlife park, rumpus room or post-apocalyptic landscape inhabited by half chimp/half humans. Mayeri’s intriguing and amusing story-and-response structure contains darker undercurrents in its contemplation of the lives of our captive close relatives.
To make Primate Cinema: Apes as Family artist Rachel Mayeri collaborated with comparative psychologist Dr Sarah-Jane Vick, testing different styles and genres of film to gauge chimps’ responses and discussing issues around cognition and communication in research primates. 
 

Artists

Rachel Mayeri is a multi-media artist specialising in videos, installations and writing projects. Mayeri’s research spans topics ranging from the history of special effects to the human animal. In her video and documentary work, Mayeri uses motion graphics, live-action and storytelling to create compelling films exploring the primate continuum.The P rimate Cinema films encourage viewers to consider questions about the place of the human in this biological continuum, as humans often view themselves as separate from the rest of the animal kingdom. The implications of considering ourselves as separate to our ancestors is unfortunate as Robert Jurmain, professor emeritus of anthropology at San Jose State University says that “to arrive at any understanding of what it is to be human, it’s important to recognize that many of our behaviours are elaborate extensions of those of our hominin ancestors and close primate relatives”.
 
Dr Sarah-Jane Vick is the Senior Lecturer in Psychology at the University of Stirling, UK. Her primary research interest is the evolution of communication and cognition, focusing on the role of gaze, facial expression and gestural communication in primates. Vick is part of the research team which modified Facial Action Coding System (FACS) for use with chimpanzees. Vick is a member of the Behaviour and Evolution Research Group (BERG), the Scottish Primate Research Group, and the International Society for Anthrozoology. Council member for the British Science Association Psychology Section Committee and member of the Primate Society of Great Britain.