Week 9/ Primate Cinema/social science intersects with art

The lecture last week by three guest speakers was very engaging and interesting. I would like to talk  a little bit about my responses to each of them but first emphasize on the chimps project. The first speaker, filmmaker Rachel Mayeri, showed us her series of work Primate Cinema. The topic of primate behaviors for chimpanzee watching television is very interesting, and the artistic ways she chose are communicating very well. The two channel videos installation reinforces the TV in TV scenario. In the video we watched in the second half of the class Baboons as Friends, the juxtaposition of baboons in the wild with an act out by human beings in a bar was very dramatic and successful.


The other film Apes as Family shocks me a little bit. The film chimps in the zoo are watching is about a female chimp living in the human house with a group of guest chimps acted by human actors. I understand how the artist is expressing the idea of creating a prism for human beings to learn about the inner world of chimpanzees. Although it is kind of fun to watch this film, I feel a little bit sad thinking about how the chimps are fooled by human beings in the process of making this art. If this project aims to reveal how “close” chimps are with human beings, how complex their social, cognitive and emotional lives are, they should also consider their nature and their own life rather than taming them under human activities and say that they “share with us a fascination with cinema”. Besides this kind of ethical issue side, I appreciate how Rachel Mayeri makes her filmmaking art in the science world without becoming just a science documentary. She said that she did not have controlled variables in the lab of chimps but that’s why she was making this project as art. Artists use their own ways and perspectives to give us new ideas about different things in the world. This is challenging but the visualization is usually more appealing to the public than pure scientific data and analysis.

Our second speaker Adam Burgasser talked about the movement/gesture approach to learning physics. In just a few seconds, we experienced how quickly a gesture was being sent to everyone in the classroom, your own gesture was also popularizing around, and we even created two sculptures themed subjugation with colorful pipe cleaners. I love this hands-on learning experience. It is important not to separate ourselves in the study of theoretical physics. Professor Burgasser’s activity also reminds me of another professor James Fowler. He is a medical genetics professor as well as a social science professor. His research on social networks intersects with his studies on genes. One quote from his book Connected:header” Social networks are intricate things of beauty. They are so elaborate and complex that one has to wonder what purpose they serve. Why are we embedded in them? How do they form? How do they work? How do they affect us?”

After learning Professor Burgasser’s work, I believe Professor James Fowler can also collaborate with some artists to foster the creativity and artistic aspects of his studies. For example, LinkedIn created network maps for users and users can read things from the visualization.


In addition to studying animals, there’s still a lot more things to explore regarding human beings in social science that artists can involve in.  I’m very interested in this aspect and I might do more research and work my final project with this!


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