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 Central School of Speech and Drama (CSSD) 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 CSSD, Ian Rudgewick-Brown, Theo Ereira-Guyer and PEM specialist Sarah Victoria (Perdekamp Emotional Method of acting).