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Film for chimps premieres in Liverpool

27 September 2011

The first film to be made expressly for chimpanzees receives its UK premiere at the Abandon Normal Devices Festival in Liverpool this weekend.

Giving chimpanzees television to watch is not new: chimps in captivity all over the world are often shown TV as form of environmental enrichment. To make 'Primate Cinema: Apes as Family', Los Angeles-based artist Rachel Mayeri collaborated with comparative psychologist Dr Sarah-Jane Vick to explore issues around cognition and communication in research primates.

The duo tested different styles and genres of film on chimps in captivity to gauge their responses and to see whether chimps 'lose themselves' in what they are watching as readily as humans.

The resulting film is a dual-screen installation juxtaposing a chimp-centred social drama, enacted by humans in the guise of apes, with mesmerising footage of the reactions of an ape audience at Edinburgh Zoo.

Rob LaFrenais, curator at The Arts Catalyst, who commissioned the work, explains: "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 dark undercurrents in its contemplation of the lives of our captive close relatives."

Mayeri was an awarded an honorary mention for 'Primate Cinema: Apes as Family' at Prix Ars Electronica, the leading electronic arts festival, in May 2011.

'Primate Cinema: Apes as Family' was commissioned by The Arts Catalyst and made with financial support from a Wellcome Trust Arts Award, Arts Council England and the Aix-Marseille Institute of Advanced Studies.

‘Primate Cinema: Apes as Family’ screenings

29 September-2 October 2011
AND Festival, 34 Slater Street, Liverpool L1 4BX
11.00-18.00 | Admission free

19 October-13 November 2011
The Arts Catalyst, 50-54 Clerkenwell Road, London EC1M 5PS
Tuesday-Saturday 12.00-18.00 (Thursdays 12.00-20.00) | Admission free

Tuesday 18 October, 16.00-18.00
The Crypt, St James Church, Clerkenwell Close, London EC1R 0EA
Rachel Mayeri and Dr Sarah-Jane Vick explore similarities and differences in perception, cognition and socio-emotional behaviour between humans and chimpanzees.
Admission free, booking essential.

Screening and curator talk
7 December 2011, 19.00
Nottingham Contemporary, Weekday Cross, Nottingham NG1 2GB
Admission free, booking essential.

Image credit: ‘Primate Cinema: Apes as Family’, Rachel Mayeri, commissioned by The Arts Catalyst.

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