thanks again to Johannes Post for including my 2017 video Beat in his video series in the window at konig books in cologne
new video online here.
Thanks: Luca Beeler, Richard Sides and Judith Welter
The Human Model depicts a monkey hand puppet dancing to a live recording of Rod Stewart’s 1971 song ‘Maggie May’. The hand puppet is a product of german manufacturer Steiff circa 1920 and is made from mohair, straw and felt.
I was thinking about toys as surrogates; friends, siblings, babies. Receptacles for love, desire, anger and frustration. Practiced on, then discarded on the journey into a well adjusted adulthood. They become obsolete because we have real people to take ourselves out on.
I purchased monkey soft-toys at auction, ones that were scarred around areas of repeated contact from dirty fingers, saliva, tears, or food. I was looking for toys that were mass produced before or around the time modern ideas of developmental psychology were coming into existence in the mid 20th century.
In the 1950's scientists tried to quantify love through systematically traumatising primate test subjects, experimenting with the effects of maternal separation and social isolation. Their findings revealed the importance of caregiving and companionship in childhood, and the impact of maternal separation on cognitive development. It helped to form understandings of the importance of physical contact, and completely changed how parents were instructed to care for their children.
Many of the toys from this period are now valuable collectors items, in the auction listing photos, the hands posing the toys are liver spotted and wrinkly. The glove puppets were the most interesting to me because they described a child’s hand as much as a monkey’s body. The animation armature inside the puppet is a fairly standard 11 inch bi-ped skeleton.
I chose to animate it to Maggie May, not least because my own mum likes it (British mum's like Rod Stewart), but also because it expresses the ambivalence and contradictory emotions of a boy involved with an older woman; a surrogate mother, an object of desire and supposedly drawn from Stewart’s own early experience. The song is full of resentful and mysoginist lyrics; even the title is derogatory, taken as it is from a Liverpudlian folk song ‘Maggie Mae’ about a thieving sex worker.