At first glance, the Economist Plaza appears empty – the usual centrally positioned sculpture absent. But scanning the perimeter a lone figure is seen to be lurking amongst the passing crowd. To our surprise – or perhaps more to his – a fully grown male chimpanzee is perched ominously upon the southern railing of the space. The chimpanzee is more closely related genetically to humans than to gorillas or other apes, and here we find our closest living cousin sitting within the fabric of this busy urban plaza, quite inconspicuously but resolutely staring back at us.
An awkward and unexpected standoff with our animal past, Mimetes Anon is a meticulously cast bronze chimpanzee with a photo-realist surface. As if from a scene in an apocalyptic science fiction movie, its appearance in the Plaza also serves as a reminder of what might have been if the great evolutionary leap forward never happened. The title refers to a synonym for the chimpanzee originated in the 1820’s (mimetes – from the Greek word meaning ‘to imitate’. Anon – at an unspecified future time).
Alastair Mackie’s sculptures often address the lack of progress in contemporary society and the destructive ways we forge ahead into the future without learning from past mistakes. If the development of agriculture marks the advent of human civilization, then today, culture, science, government, and economic expansion are the benchmarks we use to measure the progress of civilisation. More than ever at this moment in time, as world population burgeons to almost seven billion people, we are forced to rethink the state of the human condition in relation to our environment. By remembering the past and imagining the future, we begin to question whether our obsession with progress is in fact leading us in the right direction. Mimetes Anon triggers our awareness and interrogates our convictions about the uneasy boundaries that separate modern man and the natural world that we inhabit.