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Arts Catalyst announces Rachel Mayeri Primate Cinema. Apes as Family

In Primate Cinema: Apes as Family, artist Rachel Mayeri 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. Filmed 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,” explains The Arts Catalyst’s curator, Rob La Frenais. “Mayeri’s intriguing and amusing story-and-response structure contains dark undercurrents in its contemplation of the lives of our captive close relatives.”

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, artist Rachel Mayeri collaborated with comparative psychologist Dr Sarah-Jane Vick from Stirling University. They tested different styles and genres of film with Edinburgh’s chimps to gauge their responses and to explore issues around cognition and communication in research primates and the notion of whether chimps ‘lose themselves’ in what they are watching as readily as humans.

A documentary film, The Making of Primate Cinema will be screened daily as part of Edinburgh Art Festival, in the Budongo Trail theatre, Edinburgh Zoo.

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. 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. The leading electronic arts festival—Prix Ars Electronica—awarded Primate Cinema: Apes as Family an honorary mention in 2011.

11am daily, 2 August–2 September 2012
Screening of The Making of Primate Cinema. Daily in the Budongo Trail theatre, Edinburgh Zoo.

5–6:30pm, Friday 3 August
Cinema as Primatology. Panel discussion with artists Rachel Mayeri and Andrea Row, chaired by curator Rob La Frenais. Edinburgh College of Art, admission free, booking advised (click here).

6–10pm, Thursday 23 August
Art Late South—a free evening of tour, late openings, and events at Edinburgh Art Festival venues with live music and performances. Free to attend, booking advised (click here).

3:30–4pm, Friday 24 August
Festival Detour with Gary McNair—one-off performance by theatre director and performer Gary MacNair in response to Rachel Mayeri’s installation. Free event online booking essential (click here).

Collaboration and support
Primate Cinema: Apes as Family was commissioned by The Arts Catalyst (, filmed at Edinburgh Zoo, and is presented as part of Edinburgh Art Festival ( It was made with financial support from a Wellcome Trust Arts Award, Arts Council England, and the Aix-Marseille Institute of Advanced Studies.

Private view and Edinburgh Art Festival launch:
Thursday 2 August, 7pm until late
Sculpture Court, Edinburgh College of Art
74 Lauriston Place
Edinburgh, EH3 9DF, Scotland
Hours: daily 10–5pm

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