Rachel Mayeri is a multi-media artist specialising in videos, installations and writing projects. Mayeri’s research spans topics ranging from the history of special effects to the human animal. In her video and documentary work, Mayeri uses motion graphics, live-action and storytelling to create compelling films exploring the primate continuum.
The Primate Cinema films encourage viewers to consider questions about the place of the human in this biological continuum, as humans often view themselves as separate from the rest of the animal kingdom. The implications of considering ourselves as separate to our ancestors is unfortunate as Robert Jurmain, professor emeritus of anthropology at San Jose State University says that “to arrive at any understanding of what it is to be human, it’s important to recognize that many of our behaviours are elaborate extensions of those of our hominin ancestors and close primate relatives”.
In one of Mayeri’ most successful projects, Primate Cinema: Apes as Family, the artist imagines a primate social drama in a contemporary urban context and shows this to a chimpanzee audience based at Edinburgh Zoo. The video installation is displayed on two screens, enabling the viewer to watch the film designed for primate viewing whilst also viewing the chimps’ reaction to the same video.
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 chimp’s responses, discussing issues around cognition and communication in research primates. This film was first featured at Edinburgh Art Festival 2012, in association with Arts Catalyst. Alongside this project, a free eBook was published, including papers from Matthew Fuller, Reader at the Centre for Cultural Studies, Goldsmiths, University of London and Rob La Frenais, curator at Arts Catalyst.