A series of five stills depicting an evolutionary regression from modern humanity to our common ancestor.
Due to limitations in our scientific records, it is impossible to determine the exact ancestral lineage leading back to humanity’s original diversion from our primate ancestors. By analyzing and chronologizing ancestral remains, scientists are able to render a probable representation of humanity’s ancestry.
The purpose of this series was to establish a common identity between five members of this chronological lineage. Represented by the scar on the left cheek, the subjects of this series are united by their exposure to morbidity and mortality.
The Little Fireface Project (nocturama.org) is an organization that specializes in the conservation of Javan Slow Lorises. Based in Cipaganti, a region of West Java, the Little Fireface Project conducts research at the border of a massive rainforest: the lush Cloud Forests of the Western Javan wilderness. The Western Javan rainforests are located in a montane equatorial biome that serves as a abundant ecological resource to a highly diverse group of organisms.
Recently, unfortunately, one of these Western Javan organisms has become critically endangered due to human disturbance: Nycticebus javanicus, the Javan Slow Loris, is a close cousin of the pygmy slow loris, which has recently been subject to significant media attention:
The media attention drawn from this video ultimately led to a rise in demand for slow lorises as pets. The true extent of the impact of media attention on slow loris conservation, however, is still not fully understood.
The Javan Slow Loris is an example of a collateral species suffering in the wake of the Pygmy Slow Loris’s media attention. This strepsirrhine primate has suffered two consequences from the increase in the exotic pet trade: the direct consequence is that the charismatic Javan Slow Lorises have become coveted as a pet over more robust, less charismatic species.
An indirect consequence is that the Javan Slow Loris is being outcompeted by many invasive loris species that were introduced to the forest due to a lack of understanding of the speciation of the loris family. Due to this lack of understanding, conservation efforts have accidentally released several robust slow loris species into the same biome as the Javan Slow Loris.
Thus, the very same ineffectual features that allow Javan Slow Lorises to become uniquely good pets among the lorisoid family also allowed them to be outcompeted by other, more physically robust species.
As such, the Javan Slow Loris has become a species of paramount conservational concern. In order to assist the Javan Slow Loris in its recolonization of its previous niche within the Western Javan Biome, we must understand the factors that are currently negatively impacting the species.
One clear factor that has driven the Javan Slow Loris so close to extinction is competition from other invasive loris species. By researching the social structures and behavioral patterns of Javan Slow Lorises currently affected by the presence of invaders, and contrasting my results to the activity of slow lorises unaffected by invaders, I hope to provide insight from which conservation action can be taken in the favor of Javan Slow Loris recolonization. Ultimately, the movement to save the Javan Slow Loris will provide insight into the larger picture of Global Conservation.
In the beginning, the sculpture took on a simple, dome-like form. Visible on the surface of the sculpture is a coating of 40 single-dollar bills. I told my piece’s participants that there was a grand total of 240 dollars within the sculpture, 140 singles and a single hundred-dollar bill. The participants could do whatever they wished to extract these bills from the structure, and were free to keep any currency they received.
Almost immediately after receiving these instructions, my participants fell into chaos. One member of the group bodily thrust the entirety of the sculpture from its ledge to the ground. The initial impact failed to shatter the piece, but another individual lifted the structure with a strength I would have not thought possible from his physical appearance, and cast it against the corner of the ledge. The impact successfully broke open the structure, and each participant scrambled to find a chunk from which they could extract currency.
One individual found a broken hammer that had been discarded in a gutter, and used the rejective end to pry open his chunk. Another used a cinderblock, which he rammed against several shards at once. Many simply cast their chunks against the pavement again and again. All the while, frantic participants shouted to one another, attempting to divine who had acquired the hundred-dollar bill. In the fray, one participant cut his hand on a shard of ice. Another accidentally stepped on another project. No one took the time to care.
The possibility of earning a hundred dollar bill caused the participants to become reckless with the ones, until unusable remnants of single bills littered the ground. Over time, some participants forsook the larger chunks, instead searching the ground for damaged bills which might be salvaged and repaired.
Something I observed through this social experiment was that there was almost no decline in enthusiasm throughout the desperate search. The almost inhuman fervor with which the participants searched through the ruins of my ice sculpture stayed consistently high for about five minutes, then suddenly deflated, as if the fuel of that vigor had been expended.
It was then that I revealed that there had no hundred-dollar bill, only ones. I did not receive the indignant resentment I had anticipated, just a dull acceptance as if every participant had come to their own individual realization, and I only confirmed their doubts.
The total casualty count of the experiment was twenty-three of the forty-nine bills. Almost half of the currency had been destroyed in the search for the nonexistent hundred. A nearby art piece was also damaged in the search, perhaps the most unfortunate casualty of all. There were several injuries as well, including a hand cut from a stray ice shard.
Dozens of downtrodden scraps of dollar bills remained scattered throughout the courtyard long after everyone had gone. The bills were only trash to them, utterly worthless, destroyed in the haste to find the hundred.