Matthew Manos – Humans at the Zoo


Matthew Manos, an Intern here at Beautiful/Decay had something quite interesting happen to him as a result of his recent project, “Humans At The Zoo.”



**DISCLAIMER: The Humans At The Zoo Project is not affiliated with the Los Angeles Zoo, it is a fictitious project started by Matthew Manos. Some images were fabricated to serve a point for a student project about parody.**



Five months ago, I participated in a class called “Media Art: An Introduction.” The point of the class was to teach us Design|Media Arts majors what exactly the “Media” stood for. We had many guest lecturers, but the one that stood out to me the most was the Yes Men. 


The Yes Men are a group of culture jamming activists who practice what they call “identity correction” by pretending to be powerful people and spokespersons for prominent organizations. They create and maintain fake websites similar to ones they want to spoof, and then they accept invitations received on their websites to appear at conferences, symposia, and TV shows. Their new found, self-proclaimed authority to express the idea that corporations and governmental organizations often act in dehumanizing ways toward the public has met both positively and negatively with political overtones.”




Our final project consisted of us writing an extensive proposal to the Los Angles County proposing an idea for an outdoor “media art” installation. I decided I wanted mine to reflect my thoughts on life in the city. I was immediately reminded of a Desmond Morris novel I had read which described the city as a concrete jungle. In a natural setting, animals do not masturbate, kill their young, develop stomach ulcers, etc., but in an unnatural setting, such as a zoo, they do. My argument is that the same goes for humans. I (and Desmond Morris) argue that years ago, before the existence of cities, and when the world was simplified down to a series of villages, humans did not do these unnatural things that animals experience in the zoo, but with the coming of cities, and an unnatural life for the human being species also came stomach ulcers, the desire to steal from one another, anger and the desire to kill, masturbation, etc..


To try to get my point across as well as the overarching theme that humans are animals too, I decided I wanted my proposal to consist of a concrete jungle, and what better place to do this in than the Los Angeles Zoo??





My proposal first asked that 2000 animals be replaced by humans in the zoo. I created an extensive advertisement and marketing campaign which included a shirt, a pamphlet, instructions for visitors, the soundtrack to be played at the park, a logo, oh yeah, and a website.


The visitors at the park were either instructed to be the exhibit, or to watch the exhibit. If the visitors were the exhibit, they would walk into the cages, and notice that other people (planted actors) were having fun running around and jumping and climbing up trees. While all this is happening, the soundtrack for the exhibit would be playing, audio I had recorded on Wilshire Blvd.




Now, you’re probably wondering where I am going with this story…..


Yesterday (04/28/09) I got a voice from a number I had not recognized. I went outside of class to check it and son found out that the LA Zoo had called me. Immediately I said out loud “oh FUCK.” Why was I so concerned? The website.


I created a website which consisted of images from, which replaced some of them with images of humans, advertisements, shirts, maps, and everything for my show, but it looked similar to their website (but that was the point).


So I returned the call to the LA Zoo, and I am excitedly greeted by the director of marketing and pr. They had been tracking me down for two weeks. Apparently he loved my work, but a lot of people did not. The Zoo had been getting many calls from park frequenters that were excited about the exhibit and interested when it would take place.




Let’s pause for the second… When he tells me this I’m thinking in my head, “Wow. I really succeeded.” The point of a media art piece is to cause some sort of effect on the media and for your artwork to reappear at random in some other form of communication. I did it!


Ok, back to the story…. So he continues to tell me how impressed he and the others at the zoo were with my creativity and design skills. He couldn’t believe that I single-handedly did what their entire team would do over a very extensive period of time. 





So later that day he told me that the board was going to have a meeting about what to do with my website, and it turns out that I was forced to remove the site because of legal issues. 


This man that called me is a very nice guy, he told me that he loved my work, and was complementing other work of mine that he had seen while trying to find me for the past two weeks, and said he would like to meet me. So he offered me a private tour of the Zoo whenever I would like. I will definitely take him up on that and plan to wear my “Humans at the Zoo” shirt. 








**DISCLAIMER: The Humans At The Zoo Project is not affiliated with the Los Angeles Zoo, it is a fictitious project started byMatthew Manos. Some images were fabricated to serve a point for a student project about parody.**

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  • way to go Matt! Bravo.

  • Michael

    Awesome work Matt… Congrats

  • jason

    thats so awesome.

  • That is dope, make sure you wear that shirt!

  • Karen

    This is amazing.

  • That is hilarious! Way to go Matt!

  • Jeff

    What started as just a class project really came to life. Great work!

  • Matt

    thanks for the nice comments everyone!