Primates, Physical Movement, and Gestures

This week’s lecture was both unique and enjoyable with presentations on Primate Cinema, Awareness-Through-Movement, and Physics Gestures.

The presentations on primates by Rachel Mayeri was my first time witnessing social experimentation that dealt with animals, technology, and psychology. I was impressed with how engaged the primates were with television, but also sad that our lack of a communication medium with animals restricts our possibilities for understanding the reasoning behind their reactions to the piece. I think it’s very hard to quantify and judge chaotic movement, and that just happens to be one of the limitations of inter-species communication.

Human-Primate Interaction. I see friendship.
Human-Primate Interaction. I see friendship.

It’s also hard to say how much of a mental toll this experiment may have taken on the creatures. Humans in a similar position could possibly be driven to madness. Someone mentioned the uncanny valley and how that may contribute to a high degree of aversion, and I think they may be right. The humans dressed as primates had professional disguises, but I think it was still extremely clear that it was a human. I’m not sure how convinced the primates were by the disguises, but there’s no doubt that the similarity to their own kind led to some unease. Regardless, I really wonder how exposure to technology affects cognitive development within other species. That is one of the main externalities of industrialization, and it’s unclear whether or not it is positive.

Dr. Deborah Forster’s “non-exercise” series of movements was a reminder of several things that I had been shown in the past. Much of it was a reminder of the human mentality when it comes to limits. A former sports coach of mine told me about his theories of record-breaking and overcoming apparent physical ceilings through belief. I think that along with belief, awareness of your body contributes to performing above standards. In sports, attempting to exceed a boundary leads you to consider all possible changes you can make in terms of body positioning and exertion. I think that this is similar to Forster’s explanation; that many of us had forgotten to consider the lower parts of our body in our sitting posture.

As I was writing this blog entry, I noticed myself paying more attention to my posture. My mind is relatively simple in the sense that I’m not very good at paying attention to multiple things at the same time. As I began to focus on my breathing, it became unnatural and forced. While awareness can have positive effects, some functions are better left automatic I suppose!

I really enjoyed the class engagement in transmission by Dr. Adam Burgasser, with how we physically got to participate by spreading gestures. I thought that it was a clever way to demonstrate chain reactions, and the application that was demonstrated by our requirement to spread a gesture is not only relevant in biology, but also relevant in the public sphere as ideas become public and art becomes visible.

However, my favorite part was the visual representation of “subjugation” through pipe-cleaners. Unlike the body gestures that all similarly approached a heart-like shape when we were asked to represent “love”, “subjugation” was more abstract and created a greater diversity of shapes, ideas, and forms. No longer limited by the physical contortions of our bodies, we were able to create a variety of shapes which combined together to form something visually interesting. There is something beautiful about the fact that I would never guess that the long colorful network of pipe-cleaners was a collective attempt to convey the idea of subjugation. I wonder what other creations could be inspired by a single concept.

A wonderful medium of variable expression.
A wonderful medium of variable expression.

-Paul Llanura



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