Darwin’s nose: an exhibition for Orangutans

Indo-Malaya Pavilion of the Toronto Zoo 14 May -15 May 2011
Video HD 22 mins-47 sec.
Throughout history there has been a tendency to create a social commentary on the ideas of the time, by means of allegories that consigns animals, apes and monkeys to human culture and ironically claim for them observations and values of human intelligence and behavior. This project Darwin’s nose draws on this tradition of allegorical artworks. The work of Hugo Rheingold, Monkey regarding a Skull (Darwin’s monkey) 1892, in particular provides an orientation to this work and is a foil to Darwin’s nose. Filmed over two days at the Toronto Zoo, with two different groups of apes—the first day a dominant mature female with her offspring and the second, a group of two younger more inexperienced females with their offspring in their exhibit in the Indo-Malaya Pavilion.
This project is reflexive, considering the ideas involved in human/animal perception, and representation, observed here through an interspecies exhibition. The elements that form the installation Balancing Act are connected and in some way are themselves an allegory of history and time, presented for no other purpose, other than primate contemplation and interaction, entirely for the Orangutan’s to relate to on their own terms. Conspicuously absent is the male Orangutan who unfortunately passed away suddenly from organ failure the previous summer. The unfolding dynamics are no doubt influenced by this social gap experienced in the hierarchy of the two groups.

Camera 1. Daniel Jacques
Camera 2. Thea Jones—editing, post production
Special thanks to Paul Harpley, the Mammal Curators and PublicRelations Office of the Toronto zoo. The Canada Council for their financial support.