The Making of Primate Cinema, Edinburgh Zoo

Dual screen shows apes in their enclosure at Edinburgh Zoo, surrounding a TV Screen. The second image shows an ape peeking around a door.
Rachel Mayeri, The Making of Primate Cinema, Edinburgh Zoo.

A film documenting artist Rachel Mayeri's collaborative research process with Dr Sarah Jane Vick

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.

Research over 2010-11 took place in different spaces in Los Angeles and Edinburgh, with much filming in the Budongo Trail at Edinburgh Zoo.  In the final work, 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. 


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.