Rachel Mayeri: Primate Cinema - Apes as Family (3 stars)

This article is from 2012

Rachel Mayeri: Primate Cinema - Apes as Family

Dual screen video installation fails to create monkey magic

Los Angeles-based visual artist Rachel Mayeri’s anthropomorphic study of entertainment created for simians, a series entitled Primate Cinema, is perhaps best appreciated for its conceptual design, one of those off the wall ‘somebody had to do it’ ideas that contemporary art often throws up, than for its application. While her work has rightly gathered interest from social researchers and psychologists, its execution is – on this evidence as a simultaneous dual-screen mirror of action and response – only sporadically engaging.

The set-up is simple and amusing. On one screen a bunch of human actors dressed as apes perform scenes in the style of filmic genres: a chimps’ tea party of a kitchen sink soap opera; a porn film; a gritty indie noir with one ape channel-surfing on the bed in his hotel room. On the other, apes in the monkey enclosure at Edinburgh Zoo react to this film as it’s screened before them, or more often don’t.

Across their near 20-minute running time, there are a couple of striking moments within the films, particularly a few seconds where a group of apes separately converge upon one screen as if they were a family settling in for the evening, or a poignant moment where one monkey moves close to the camera, allowing a big close-up of his eyes straining with incomprehension as they flicker across the screen. But otherwise the apes seem content to have a look and go off to play outdoors instead, a lesson for us all as we silently hope the actors didn’t resort to the Method for the ape-shagging and crotch-sniffing scenes.

Edinburgh College of Art, 651 5800, until 2 Sep, free.

Trailer for Primate Cinema: Apes as Family

Rachel Mayeri: Primate Cinema – Apes as Family

  • 3 stars

Previous works by Rachel Mayeri include Primate Cinema: Baboons as Friends, in which a primatologist shot a film of four male baboons competing for the attentions of a female, and the artist then took the film, scripted the behaviour for five actors and had five actors act it out as if were four guys and a girl in a film…

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