Painting Primates

here is a study I am developing with Justin Goodman (Marymount University/PETA). It’s a multispecies ethnography of a chimpanzee/human painting collaboration.

Nathaniel Gold is a painter in Long Island, NY who exclusively paints images of chimpanzees. Recently, he has entered a collaboration with a primate sanctuary, where a number of chimpanzee painters have produced works which he subsequently adds to. Mobilized in the interest of ‘fund-raising’ for a number of “special needs chimps” – painters defined by their lack of personal habitats at the sanctuary – the collaboration between the chimps and Gold involves an art show nearby the sanctuary, and an online donation campaign framing the event.

In this presentation, we offer an analysis of this emerging collaboration through the lens of multispecies ethnography. In conversation with Gold, the Latourian “spokespersons” at the sanctuary, the paintings, and the texts of the campaign, we ask what this phenomenon can tell us about the current condition of society and art. Where are artistic and cultural identities located in the production of these works? How are these artifacts used to “activate” a community to improve the situation of primates in captivity? What can the role of the painting “special needs chimps” teach us about the artist in society? As chimps and humans work in tandem to raise funds for their habitats, what does this collaboration tell us about domestication as a circulation of objects and identities?

here is a bit of a preview: http://sociologicalimagination.org/archives/13033