IF YOU LIKE ANIMALS MORE THAN PEOPLE (1999)
Four-channel video installation for which I requested 8 non-actors to improvise scenarios based on Koko, A Talking Gorilla, the 1978 documentary by Barbet Schroeder. Penny, Koko's teacher, appears in Schroeder's film with flowing blonde hair and platform shoes, while Koko supplies distracted answers to Penny's questions about the location of her body parts. Penny is the perfect scientist /mom. I briefed the performers on primate and feral child research, and suggested they refer to their own upbringings. The people playing both characters are masked. The melodrama is midway between a primatologist's psychology experiment and a primal therapy session; Cassavetes doing Planet of the Apes.
The installation was a fragmented serial in which the learning of culture by an untutored or uncivilized being is being undertaken. The process for a child to differentiate the parts of her body, or to discern different individuals and objects in her world take place as a seamless part of nurturance in her family; to pull them out of that specific circumstance turns them into grotesqueries. The work was presented on 4 monitors, surrounded by mosquito netting and foliage, with the viewer placed in an ersatz jungle, looking back through screens into the laboratory.