Pri-Mates is a research-based, visual arts project, which began 10 years ago. It has included collaborations and residencies at major international zoos, primate research institutes and my personal research of apes in the wild. Through research into primate behaviour, I have developed an arts project which has been exhibited extensively within Australia and internationally.
This visual arts project examines the relationship between humans and their primate relatives with the resultant art works being in the form of drawings, computer generated photography, sculpture, video and sound installation. Pri-mates—Political Ape consists of a series of seven bronze busts of chimpanzees and a sound installation piece, thereby combining traditional sculptural technique with new technology.
I recorded the sound piece of chimpanzee vocalisations at the London Zoo, which was then edited and designed with the help of renowned musician, Charlie Owen. The concept of Political Ape was inspired by the research and writings of Dutch primatologist Frans DeWaal.
DeWaal’s research is based on his observations of a Bonobo chimpanzee colony at a research centre in Holland, highlighting their use of vocalisations in order to communicate and create political order within their groups. These vocalisations reflect on primate use of language, thought to be essential to the development of mankind as we know it today.
The sounds of chimpanzees communicating with each other hits a primal nerve in the human listener, and when combined with the individually expressive faces of the chimpanzee busts, creates the scene of a primal consortium, or conspiracy.
Lisa Roet, November 2002