Aping and Communicating

In 1977, Barbet Schroeder filmed the interactions between a 6-year-old lowland gorilla, Koko, and her teacher, Dr. Francine "Penny" Patterson. After being purchased from the San Francisco Zoo, the ape had been brought to Stanford University, where she was being taught to use American Sign Language and recognize spoken English. It was an experiment in interspecies communication that made Koko a worldwide celebrity and a frequent subject of scientific debate. For one, where is the line between an ape and a person? Is it the understanding of language? And if so, what depth of linguistic comprehension can be considered human?

This Wednesday at 7 p.m., Schroeder's documentary Koko: A Talking Gorilla will be shown at the Museum of Contemporary Art as the first in a series of three films from French art collective Claire Fontaine's "moving-image toolbox."
Wed., June 16, 7 p.m., 2010
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S. Pajot