26 October 2012

Rachel's 'animated documentaries' bring together the worlds of art and science, typically combining live action, motion graphics, story telling and documentary. In a documentary style, Primate Cinema, provides a curious take on the phenomenon of film and television and its cultural, psychological and vaguely pornographic significance.

Rachel has been working for several years on a series of experimental film projects exploring the primate theme. She has done extensive work researching and documenting ape behaviour, culminating in her 2011 piece Primate Cinema: Apes as Family . This work is a two-channel installation, with one screen featuring an original film created expressly for the entertainment of the chimpanzees at Edinburgh Zoo. This Wizard of Oz themed film used actors dressed in chimp suits which were highly realistic, utilising animatronic puppetry. The other screen in the installation showed footage of the chimps reactions to watching the primate drama. This project was based on fascinating studies about Chimp responses to cinema and the similarities in their viewing responses to those of humans. Articles on this research have appeared in The Telegraph and Wired Magazine.

Speaking about her interest in this topic to art blog We Make Money not Art, Rachel notes that chimps are interested in television in captivity, but not in the wild and also stipulates that it is inaccurate to say that we are descended from chimps, given that while we have evolved, chimps have not been frozen in time, but have also developed as a species.

In one of Rachel's earlier works, Stories from the Genome: An Animated History of Reproduction, documentary and animation are used together to tell the story of an unnamed CEO-geneticist's misadventures in the art of cloning. The narrative was based on the true story of Craig Venter, who was CEO of Celera Genomics and was found to have used his own genetic material in the Human Genome Project. Inspired by an article Rachel came across on Venter, this piece comments on the self-interest and skewed agendas of biotechnology today.

Rachel is also an accomplished writer and academic, having published essays and writing projects on a wide range of topics, from the history of special effects to the possibilities of extra-terrestrial sexuality! Explore her website to find out more.