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The Four Year War at Gombe, 2009-2011
The Museum of Contemporary Photography, Installation View.
Four Year War at Gombe" is a large
photographic and video project based on Jane Goodall's research and
discovery that chimpanzees wage war and are capable of long-range planning and
strategic thinking. While not literal in intent, I have used much of Goodall's
research photographs and notes to reconstruct the history of this group.
group of chimpanzees lived peaceably together for many years before splitting
into the two communities of Kesakela and Kahama. Shortly after this split
the original group hunted down and killed all the former members of their
group. It seems that like us, the bloodiest feuds and civil wars are always
waged against those whom we have the closest ties to. Bonobos and
chimpanzees share 98% of the same genes as us, knowing this, the similarity of
this story to our own history is striking. This project comes out of the
question, "how much of our behavior is rooted in the core of our
biological identity and how captive are we to these impulses?
This large project consists of related groupings of photographs and video that tell the story of this broken community. The series is divided between happy pastorals and a series of 9 murders that occurred between 1973 and 1977 at Gombe Stream National Park in Tanzania. The participants in this project were all family, neighbors and friends who generously gave of their time and I think had some fun learning about primate societies and their behavior.
Research for this project included visits to Yerkes Primate Research Center in Atlanta where I met primatologist Frans de Waal, who has written extensively on aggression and co-operation in primates. I also met with Amy Pollick, whose graduate research focused on gestural communication in primates. This visit was followed up with a residency at Wild Animal Park in Escondido, California where I observed, photographed and video taped bonobos.