History of Art and Technology: An evening on Mediated Gesture and Movement in Apes and Others

Filmmaker Rachel Mayeri, UCSD Visual Arts MFA and Professor at Harvey Mudd College, will present and speak about her film series Primate Cinema in a talk titled Primate Cinema and The Nonhuman Demographic

Dr. Deborah Forster of UCSD CalIT2 will comment on her collaborations with Rachel Mayeri and lead an exercise on Awareness-Through-Movement

Dr. Adam Burgasser of UCSD Physics will lead an exercise on physics gestures

Primate Cinema is a series of videos in which Rachel Mayeri visualizes primate social dramas for human audiences. The first video experiment, Baboons as Friends, juxtaposes footage of baboons taken in the field with a reenactment by human actors, shot in film noir style in a bar in Los Angeles. Baboons as Friends includes raw field footage of baboons in Kenya, shot by primatologist/cognitive scientist, Deborah Forster paired with a reenactment Mayeri scripted and directed with actors in Hollywood. The soundtrack combines actual vocalizations of the baboons with the ambiance of a bar. It includes commentary by Forster on the behavior of primates. To make Primate Cinema: Apes as Family, 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. 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 footage of the reactions of its ape audience at Edinburgh Zoo.

Rachel Mayeri is a Los Angeles-based media artist working at the intersection of science and art. Her projects explore topics ranging from the history of special effects to the human animal. Her videos have shown at Sundance, Berlinale, Exploratorium, dOCUMENTA (13) and Ars Electronica. She is the recipient of numerous grants, including the Wellcome Trust, Creative Capital, and the California Council for the Humanities. Mayeri is a guest curator of the Museum of Jurassic Technology and an Associate Professor of Media Studies at Harvey Mudd College.

Deborah Forster is a project scientist based at Cal IT2 who holds a PhD in cognitive science from UCSD. She teaches contemplative movement to architecture students at Woodbury in Barrio Logan. She has studied distributed cognition and social complexity of behavior in subjects including baboons, humans, and distributed, online learning and the embodied state of being in the world with computers and others.

Adam Burgasser is an Associate Professor of Physics at UC San Diego and an observational astrophysicist. In addition to his astronomical research, he is interested in fostering creativity and artistic techniques in the teaching and communication of science. He is part of the science-art collaboration Project Planetaria with Tara Knight (Theatre Arts) and Michael Trigilio (Visual Arts), which explores data-driven artforms, scientific metaphors, and multi-sensory/trans-sensory interaction. With Dianna Cowern, he has developed the Beach Physics project which aims to develop Physics curriculum and content for middle school students centered around the beach environment. With Patricia Rincon (Dance) he is developing a movement- and gesture-based approach to physics learning. These projects have been featured in several conferences and public events, including Audacious Speculations, the Deep Listening Institute Conference Series, and the La Jolla Playhouse Without Walls Festival. Adam serves on the advisory boards of the UCSD Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination and the UCSC Institute for Scientist and Engineer Educators.

Thursday, March 5th // 6:30-9:00 pm
UC San Diego / Pepper Canyon #106
9500 Gilman Dr, La Jolla, California 92093

Rachel Mayeri is an UC San Diego Department of Visual Arts MFA Alumna. For more about her work, please visit:

Image courtesy of Artist Rachel Mayeri.

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