With "Primate Tree" I am moving away from the cosmic and geological scale and focusing on the evolution of life on its surface. The tree is a scale model of evolutionary time: 1 meter in the tree represents 10 million years, 1 mm equals 10.000 years. Chimpanzees only branched out 6 million years ago, from our evolutionary line so are placed 60 cm away from our tree house. Tarsiers on the contrary went their separate way 60 million years ago, 6 meters away, at the very base of the tree. All 32 primates in the tree are placed at the end of a 6,5 meters branch and are all evolved to find a specialized niche in the ecosystem they inhabit.
This model is a first attempt to put the Primate Tree project into 3D. The tree would be a metal structure with a soft, light-colored rubber like surface resembling driftwood. On top of the tree is a maze with actual climbing and hanging plants growing. The ground under the tree is soft and the sculpture is functioning like a children’s playground: You can climb the tree with the help of small stairs following the 65 million years of human evolution and sit in the little tree house next to a sculpture of our closest relatives: Chimpanzee and bonobo. There are 32 life-sized sculptures of primates in the tree. Their face hands and feet are made of clay; body shape is metal covered with fur. In addition to this every primate has a little speaker hidden inside the fur with recordings of the sounds it’s making. The tree will form a concert of all the sounds these primates make, some loud some barely audible. No human-sound recordings and no human sculpture except for the tree house is present. We are ourselves representatives of the human race.
The story of evolution is our story. It’s the story of why we have limbs, hearts, brains and longs, and emotions of a mammal brain with strong family ties. It is the role of scientists to learn more about the mechanics of evolution and DNA but it is our job as artists to take this information and give it meaning. Make it speak to us and let it tell us who we are and where we come from.
As Tomas Berry put it: “Our challenge is to create a new language, even a new sense of what it is to be human. It is to transcend not only national limitations, but even our species isolation, to enter into the larger community of living species. This brings about a completely new sense of reality and value.”