http://www.artscatalyst.org/artist/rachel-mayeri http://rachelmayeri.com/blog/2011/04/18/primate-cinema/ https://vimeo.com/57159070 http://www.vdb.org/artists/rachel-mayeri
Ape Cinema is an exemplar because of how common human practices can become means to explore other fields. The project consists of an original movie made expressly for a chimpanzee audience, who seem watching the same things as human primates: dramas around food, territory, social status, and sex. The project creates a prism for human beings to learn more about the complex social, cognitive and emotional lives of chimpanzees by watching a movie through chimps’ eyes. This project has had an impact in biology, sociology, and their interconnections.
“Primate Cinema: Apes as Family” is an original movie made expressly for a chimpanzee audience. Chimpanzees watch television as a form of enrichment in captivity. But no filmmaker had made a film for a specifically non-human primate audience. Commissioned by the Arts Catalyst, and receiving a major arts award from the Wellcome Trust, the director, in consultation with comparative psychologist Dr. Sarah-Jane Vick, observed chimpanzees’ reactions to a variety of television genres: Teletubbies, Hell’s Kitchen, kettle drums, wildlife films. Chimps seem to like to watch the same things as human primates: dramas around food, territory, social status, and sex. In “Apes as Family,” the protagonist is a young female chimp, played by a human in an animatronic costume, whose facial expressions are controlled by puppeteers. The young female, like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, encounters strangers on an adventure which eventually leads back where she began. The drama-for-chimps is intercut with the chimps’ responses to the film, when it premiered at the Edinburgh Zoo in Scotland. Chimps’ were attentive to the film; some sat and watched, others attempted to touch or smell the characters, and other appeared to mimic the action on screen. The project was intended to create a prism for human beings to learn about the inner world of chimpanzees. By watching a movie through chimps’ eyes, we can imagine what they think and feel. Chimps are, after all, our closest relatives. Known for their complex social, cognitive and emotional lives, they also share with us a fascination with cinema.