The title My Previous Life as an Ape is borrowed from Kafka's short story A Report to an Academy in which an ape, who has evolved to mimic humans, is asked to recall his existence as a primate.
Mimetic animals with eyespot markings have colonised the landscaped garden idyll at Lincoln’s Inn. The buildings that surround it represent the highest concentration of lawyer’s chambers in the UK. This setting has become the unlikely setting for a series of commissioned drawings, by former court artist Sian Frances, of a lookalike murderer re-enacting his own transition from police cell to first appearance in court. He reappears again to mimic drama students from the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in their attempts to become animal at London Zoo. Themes of legality and the animal, both as copy and copier, return in fragments throughout the show.
The title My Previous Life as an Ape is borrowed from Kafka’s short story A Report to an Academy in which an ape, who has evolved to mimic humans, is asked to recall his existence as a primate. In looking for a ‘way out’ of his cage the ape realises he must become human enough to become a (musical) performer. By casting off his memory and former identity in order to survive, the story’s protagonist can no longer relate his emotions or experiences as a primate. In this sense, for the ape, his identity is about performance, a fluid re-enactment of the self. Coutts’ new work explores the act of copying as an impulse not only fundamental to the human condition, but also as territory where we have been exceeded by the animal. In overlapping series of photographs, photo-etchings, drawings and moving image work, animal and human mimics file their reports.
My Previous Life as an Ape will include a parallel text by J. A. Harrington, with advice from and participation by Sian Frances, Stella Dimitrakopoulou, Vanessa Ewan and her Animal Movement cohort from the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, Ian Rudgewick-Brown, Theo Ereira-Guyer and PEM specialist Sarah Victoria (Perdekamp Emotional Method of acting).
Nicky Coutts studied for an MA in Fine Art at Chelsea College of Art and Design in 1992 and completed a PhD in Photography at the Royal College of Art in 2001. Her work has been exhibited at public venues that include Kunsthalle Mainz, Germany; Centre Pompidou, Paris; Hå gamle prestegard, Norway; Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin; and the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA), London.
Recent projects have been developed as part of residency and fellowship programmes at Künstlerhaus Schloss Balmoral, Germany; Youkobo Art Space, Tokyo; Visual Arts in Rural Communities (VARC), Northumberland, UK and Rondo, Austria. Writing, publishing and artists’ books also form an important part of her practice. She was formerly a commissioning editor of Make, Magazine of Women’s Art, an associate editor of Coil: Journal of the Moving Image and, as postdoctoral fellow in Fine Art, instigated a series of collaborative publications at Middlesex University under the imprint Confluens.
My Previous Life as an Ape is Coutts' third solo exhibition at Danielle Arnaud.
Image: Nicky Coutts Mimics series 3 2015 C-type print 66 x 100cm
Opening: Friday 24 April 6-9pm
123 Kennington Road
Fri - Sun 2pm to 6pm