Consul and Meshie
Apes, especially great apes, are considered the ‘almost human’ animals and this ‘almost’ has turned them into a projection screen for what humans think is human. At the beginning of the 20th century the chimpanzees Consul and Meshie lived among humans as humans and in the end considered themselves to be human. Antonia Baehr and Latifa Laâbissi adopt their own apish identities - with no liability for historical correctness. Hairy and liberal, insolent and shameless, these human apes occupy an installation by Nadia Lauro which nests itself roughly and casually into quiet little corners of theatres and museums away from the stage. From two leather car seats, whose furry innards gradually spread into the room, Consul Baehr and Meshie Laâbissi exhibit themselves for seven hours at a time while the audience is free to come and go.
A human is an ape for the human, or two humans play at being apes that play at being humans for humans. They get out of hand and control themselves, straightening each other out, miming the docile animal. They sleep and lapse into apathy, steal slogans from populist right-wing political speeches or poses from Valeska Gert’s dances and animal tricks from YouTube clips. Consul and Meshie become a trigger for reflections about the violence of attribution that marginalises bodies on the basis of constructed cultural norms – ‘nature’ and culture, the self and the other, man and woman.
Installation and Costume
Nadia Lauro’s installation is an artwork in its own right which Consul and Meshie reside in for the duration of the performance, appropriating it and perhaps also destroying it. With it they too implant themselves into the different institutional spaces of theatres and museums. We occupy the spaces between the exhibits or forgotten and neglected corners such as the space below the revolving stage of HAU 1. It is important for us that these spaces are not passageways. Staying with us and spending time with us has to be a decision. The audience members can come and go as they please.
The installation and its two residents plant themselves into found non-spaces with a gesture of occupation in which a rather intimate situation is created, probably for 30 to 50 spectators at a time. We imagine that the installation does not fill the whole space but rather occupies ‘a corner’ and, as Nadia Lauro described in our discussion with her, spills out into the given space from there.