In cultural life of today it is easy to get the impression that a lot of things take place in the wrong environment. The artgallery offers you films in dark booths, in the theatre they do street-dancing and the reason for going to a museum is to have a proper gourmet meal. Everything is culture, and there is always something to buy and bring home from the museum-shop. But what is really going on when the artists become film-directors, the employees at the museum act as businessmen and show-makers? When everything is a question of being the one to attract attention, when education becomes a question of entertainment? Ever since the early eighties one is filled with the notion of the death of both ideologies and of the great tales. Death is propagated in a kind of impotent rigor mortis. What is there to tell, who dares to take on the role of the narrator, which tale is allowed to be told? Bits from small tales raise, flare up for a second, while the big museums brood over their responsibilies.
Our proposition for an exhibition for The Museum of National Antiquities claims to be a mirror, amusingly directed against our time, as well as an incisive provocation. We wish to build one big, enormous cage of live monkeys to live in during the entire exhibition-period. The interior of the cage must be elegant and charming, fair 18th century, the only ”historical” element in our suggestion.The monkeys in our cage have no story to tell whatsoever, they eat, they rest, they play. While the audience is watching. Just as they did in the zoos and menageries during the 19th century, when it was quite common an entertainment to watch the monkeys at their meals and five-o’clock-teas. How liberating to be able to laugh at these monkeys and at the same time confirm your own uniqueness. How alike, and yet how different. Man is capable of using a knife and fork, ergo, only man is civilized.
But today we more than gladly watch other people sitting about in cages. The so-called reality-shows or reality-tv are continuously and against all odds enticing spectators to watch what actually goes on, in reality, on television. In these programmes there is no history either, only ”Here and Now”. What happens and what is constantly happening to the people who are cooped up together in a cage?
The three monkeys ”See No Evil”, ”Hear No Evil” and ”Speak No Evil” sit together and are usually referred to as wise. Even within the world of the monkeys you find role-models : King Kong, Mr Nelson, Cheeta and Jo Mendi - a favorite from the amusement industry of the American thirties, drinking cognac and smoking cigars. The church of the Middle Ages considered the monkey a symbol of the devil. No later than in the eighties of the last century the chimp Petermann succeeded in becoming a martyr of resistance to the German anarchist movement, when he was killed by the police after having attacked his own circus manager. However, our idea strives far back into history, to the closest relatives of mankind within the hominid family - to the chimpanzees and their close relatives. We think and hope that this is of outmost public interest and that it will entice large and mixed crowds to visit The Museum of National Antiquities. Despite the fact that the element of surprise will appear only on the day of the opening of the exhibition, we imagine that the prank itself continues to keep its thought-provoking freshness for each new spectator. The encounter between the formative story-telling of The Museum of National Antiquities with its upper middle-class culture and the biological situation comedy of the primates cannot possibly fail to surprise the visitor!