Alison Ruttan’s “Four Year War”

January 28, 2010 · Print This Article


Alison Ruttan, Honey Bee Watches Unseen, from "Four Year War" series

Alison Ruttan has posted images on her website from her new “Four Year War” series, part of her ongoing Primates project. (I was able to observe one of the shoots for this project last summer, which I blogged about here). She’s now edited the resulting photographs into a narrative of sorts, including storyboard-like sequences and dramatic close-ups. Of the series, Ruttan has said:

“From the beginning of my primate projects I have been collecting individual and group histories from scientist and zookeepers that I have met or read about in my research. These narratives often seem epic in scale and uncannily human in the way individuals interact with each other in their quest for power and position. The project, “The Four Year War at Gombe” is based on Jane Goodall’s discovery that Chimpanzees wage war and are capable of long-range planning and strategic thinking. Goodall’s group of chimpanzees lived peaceably together for many years before splitting into the two communities of Kesakela and Kahama. It seems that like us, the bloodiest feuds and civil wars are always waged against those whom we have the closest ties to. It is unknown what the specific causes were of the split and violence that followed. Perhaps it was an uneven distribution between males and females, a shortage of food or possibly a long-standing grudge. If this title, “The Never Ending Story” wasn’t already taken, it would have seemed apt for this story that so closely mirrors our own history.

This large photographic and video 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. While not literal in intent I have used much of Goodall’s research photographs and notes to reconstruct the history of this group. 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.”

The images look pretty incredible thus far. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing this series in printed format, in a larger setting that allows for the full impact of the narrative to unfold. (More images can be found on the artist’s website).

Gigi Kissing Mustard in Moon Valley

Sherry

De Is Badly Wounded

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