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Dual screen images by Rachel Mayeri: Zoo chimp watching TV screen (left) of actor chimp film (right)Rachel Mayeri, Primate Cinema: Apes as Family, dual screen still 2011. To feature at Edinburgh College of Art for the Edinburgh Art Festival 2012.

Primate Cinema: Apes as Family, Rachel Mayeri

Rachel MayeriSarah-Jane Vick

Edinburgh Art Festival
Sculpture Court, Edinburgh College of Art
74 Lauriston Place
Edinburgh, EH3 9DF

10am - 5pm daily, Art Late South until 10pm Thursday 23 August

02/08/2012 – 02/09/2012



Nottingham Contemporary, 7 December 2011

The Arts Catalyst, London, 19 October-13 November 2011

AND Festival, Liverpool, 29 September-2 October 2011

Prix Ars Electronica, Austria, 1-7 September 2011

Sundance Film Festival, Utah, 17-27 January 2013

Rockland Shorts:An International Short Film Series, February 2013

Berlinale Film Festival, 7-17 February 2013


In Primate Cinema: Apes as Family, the artist 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. 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 darker undercurrents in its contemplation of the lives of our captive close relatives.

To make Primate Cinema: Apes as Family artist Rachel Mayeri collaborated with comparative psychologist Dr Sarah-Jane Vick, testing different styles and genres of film to gauge chimps’ responses and discussing issues around cognition and communication in research primates.   

Watch the trailer here:

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.  Her ‘animated documentaries’ often combine motion graphics, live action, documentary, storytelling and Hollywood-style genres.  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 in London and Manchester.


Primate Cinema: Apes as Family - available in traditional print (£2 +£1 P&P) or as free eBook download here

The Making of Primate Cinema

The documentary film - The Making of Primate Cinema can be viewed online here.


Primate Cinema: Apes as Family, a collaboration between Rachel Mayeri and Dr. Sarah Jane Vick, has been commissioned by The Arts Catalyst.

Events during Edinburgh Art Festival 2012

11am daily, The Making of Primate Cinema, documentary screening in the Budongo Trail theatre, Edinburgh Zoo

Thursday 2 August from 7pm until late Private View and Festival launch event at Edinburgh College of Art

Friday 3 August, 5-6.30pm Cinema as Primatology panel discussion chaired by curator Rob La Frenais with talks by artists Rachel Mayeri and Andrea Roe on the development of Primate Cinema: Apes as Family

Thursday 23 August late opening, 6-10pm as part of Edinburgh Art Festival Art Late South free event

Friday 24 August, 3.30pm Edinburgh Art Festival Detour with Gary McNair free event


Wellcome Trust Arts Award, Mediterranean Institute of Advanced Studies and Arts Council England. With the kind support and collaboration of Edinburgh Zoo's Budongo Trail.


Rachel Mayeri

Edinburgh Art Festival

Primate Cinema previously shown at:

The Arts Catalyst, 50-54 Clerkenwell Road, London
19 October-13 November 2011

Nottingham Contemporary, Nottingham
7 December 2011

AND Festival, TAO Gallery space, Slater Street, Liverpool
29 September-2 October 2011, 11am-6pm

O.K Cyberarts 11, Prix Ars Electronica
1-7 September 2011