The Lonely Emil

Orangutans are primates known for their intelligence, long arms and red-brown fur. They live in Borneo and Sumatra, and are the only grate apes who live solitary and in trees most of their lives. The word orangutan in Malay and Indonesian means “person of the forest” (orang – person, hutan – forest). Orangutans, like other non-human primates, are often the target of smuggling, and then they become pets, movie actors, marketing tools in all sorts of commercials, well-known residents of zoos and, after death, also unique demonstration specimens in museums. The series of photographs and the video work are part of the project A Walk Through the Zoo, which examines the complex relationships between humans and animals, nature and culture, history and the present time. Exploring Emile’s history and his life after death – in various cultural and scientific institutions – has raised the issues of anthropomorphism, colonialism, but also the ideological motives for the creation of museum collections. For, as Desmond Morris in The Human Zoo (1969) says, the unnatural behavior of animals in zoos can help us understand, accept and overcome the mechanisms that life in consumerist societies brings.

ANDREA PALAŠTI (b. 1984) is a visual artist and lecturer based in Novi Sad, Serbia. She works across artistic and curatorial boundaries, experimenting with photography, video and illustrated lecture performances. Her practice is highly informed by collaborations with other artists/collectives, students, curators, journalists, scientists and/or historians. She is part of the ŠoK Gallery curatorial board and a docent at the Academy of Art in Novi Sad, blending her collaborative artistic research projects with educational strategies.