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Director Rachel Mayeri posing as the adoptive parent of chimpanzee Carla (played by Denise Pearlman) | In “Primate Cinema: Apes as Family” | Photo: Matt Chaney
Representations of apes in cinema ironically tell stories about what it means to be human. What would a cinema made for great ape audiences look like? In her guided tour, artist Rachel Mayeri will show her experiments making films for chimpanzees at the Edinburgh zoo and question the meanings of apes in our culture
Rachel Mayeri is a Los Angeles-based artist working at the intersection of science and art. Her videos, installations, and writing projects explore topics ranging from the history of special effects to the human animal. For the past several years, she has been working on a series of experimental videos exploring the primate continuum entitled “Primate Cinema.”
In 2011, she received a major arts grant from the UK-based Wellcome Trust to make original videos to entertain captive chimpanzees. The resulting project, commissioned by the Arts Catalyst, is called “Primate Cinema: Apes as Family.” A 12 minute single channel video version of the project was selected in 2013 for Sundance Film Festival, Berlinale, True/False Film Fest, and International Festival of New Media Art and Video Transitio_MX. A 22 minute two channel video installation version premiered at the festival Abandon Normal Devices. It was featured at the Edinburgh Art Festival, and won a prize for hybrid art at Ars Electronica.
Her work “Primate Cinema: Baboons as Friends” (2007) is a reenactment of a baboon social drama with human actors, produced in collaboration with primatologist Deborah Forster. It received a Semifinalist honor for the International Science & Engineering Visualization Challenge (sponsored by NSF and the Journal Science) and showed at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Denmark. As Guest Curator at the Museum of Jurassic Technology, she contributed to an exhibit on the history of special effects, Miracles and Disasters in Renaissance and Baroque Theater Mechanics. Mayeri is Associate Professor of Media Studies at Harvey Mudd College.