Aping Culture, Informational

On Cooperation, Part 4: Monkeys and Prison

Only in Europe: Barbary macaques are being held in detention and deported because “they have been behaving aggressively”. I wonder where they will get deported to, since they’re passports appear to have been lost when their forebearers immigrated to Gibraltar some time between the Pleistocene and the Middle Ages.



Thanks for sharing this, Seán!

Aping Culture, Did you know?

On Cooperation, Part 2: Monkeys and the City

Only in India: How do you get rid of monkeys you don’t want to have breaking into parliament and stealing top secret documents? Easy. You hire someone to play monkey and intimidate the other monkeys:


Apparently, this cultivation of fear is bearing fruits (as the Private Eye states):

Cultivation of Fear


Thank you for bringing this to my attention, Benjamin, and thank you for the addendum, Seán!

Aping Culture


Yes, yes, like most primatologists and researchers into primatology, I am excited about “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” coming to cinemas so soon. (I watched all through the original franchise and the Tim Burton remake and fairly enjoyed the primatology-informed “Rise of the Planet of the Apes”, if only for the excellent chimping by Andy Serkis aka King Kong aka Gollum. On a side note: Try watching the movie without subtitles in the Ameslan-scenes. Even if apes learned to communicate on a wide scale with sign language, I wouldn’t understand a thing…) By the looks of it, there will this time surely be a lot of ‘Othering’ to make my little postcolonial critic’s heart quiver with unease. Ingeniously, though, the team around director Mark Reeves is creatively reusing footage, that “Rise”‘s director Rupert Wyatt had collected as research material, see this for example:

and compare it to the newest trailer for “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”, ca. 1:20.

Of course, the machine gun wielding chimpanzee juvenile in the research footage doesn’t really screem ‘evil menace’ just as much, so the movie version is – in true fashion of the Planet of the Apes enterprise – of course a very ugly, battered antagonist type (as was the king of the ape ‘refuge’ in “Rise”, Tim Roth’s Thade in Tim Burton’s remake, and most of the gorilla fiends in the original franchise). Then again, most apes in human ‘usage’ end up being ugly, battered and mentally unsound (see: Planet of the Retired Apes, New York Times Magazine).

Anyway, back in the two decades when Planet of the Apes was on hold, another clever franchise used the uncanny resemblance of monkeys and apes to humans to threaten human (and probably simian) sensibilities – this time of the culinary kind. Oh yes, you know what I mean: “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” (1984). Monkey brain as ‘desert’, served at an Indian dinner party that defies all, virtually all of what Indian cuisine is about (ah, first quiver…), but sparking a fascination with the dish that persists amazingly well (see for example the wikipedia lemma). So well in fact, that someone designed the tableware to recreate the meal: Monkey Head bowls. Who would have thought.

Aping Culture

A Few Thoughts on Haunting Art


If I were to be asked to illustrate the phrase “hauting art”, two examples would spring to mind immediately. They are both by the same artist, both make use of the unveiling documentary functions of photography and both feature simians. That might either mean that Perttu Saksa’s art is especially hauting in the way it delivers the manners in which humans mistreat fellow primates. Or, what haunts me is how the products of this mistreatment – aged taxidermic exhibits in a museal context of natural history (Echo, 2011) and performances of monkeys dressed as dolls (A Kind of You, 2013) – can easily be put into an art context. Taxidermy is still, as Wikipedia examplifies, popularly defined as “the art of preparing, stuffing, and mounting the skins of animals […] for display […] or for other sources of study.” While pet owners thus conserving their loved ones for near-eternity might have known this forever, only the dark capture of these neglected simian exhibits, moth-eaten, blind-eyed and rudely stapled or sawn up, renders the material truth visible: That these are primate corpses, skinned, mounted on plaster and stuffed, it is arms and legs and hands and heads. Conservation, as Donna Haraway nicely dissected, first meant: getting an exemplary stuffed one for the collection before the live ones were extinct, in the process speeding up the extermination because what ape community would give up one of their own to texidermic-artistic and voyeuristic-educational pleasures without a fight? A more modern form of conservation is preservation with the slight tendency to paint the simian as childlike confidante, a consequence of the mean age of the main occupants of rehabilitation centers: orphaned and often humanized infants and juveniles. How matching that street performers in Indonesia take advantage of the human default tendency to look for the (inner?) child and its typical forms of endearment in the living (and for that matter, in the inanimate) world and render chained monkeys into begging dolls in rags. Haunting how these little enforced performers appear to be sad horror story children chained to a wall? Haunting how this is also an art form, that of begging performances as a form of street art as a means of survival?

Aping Culture, Did you know?

Die Affen Gottes

The perks of living in a town with a solid mediaval history: charming quirks all around – and some of them even relate to what my head has to cope with every day. Where better to write a dissertation on Apes and Affect than in a city known for its masons (Zunftgesellschaft zum Affen) who liken themselves to apes and their imitative proficiency?

Thanks for directing me to this finding: Fermin.


This one I really love, since everybody told me I should watch this movie because of my guilty pleasure in Zombie movies but nobody told me, that it starts right off with caged and enraged chimpanzees and makes quite a point about animal rights activism and animal testing, simultaneously: Be careful what you let out of that cage, dearest, it might be more than a usually aggressive, traumatized, vengefully blood thirsty chimp, it might just be the end of humankind…