Theory of Mind


6 digital prints on Japanese paper, sizes variable.

Theory of Mind is a series of six photographic prints on Japanese paper. In each, a gorilla appears at odds within the architecture of a medieval church. Theory of Mind is considered within an area of psychology that centres on empathy and the understanding of others and the ability to put yourself in the position of another and feel what they feel. To have ‘Theory of Mind’ is to attribute mental states, emotions, desires, beliefs and knowledges. Within most systems of law, non-human hominids are thought not to have the cognitive and emotional complexities required for ‘Theory of Mind’ (though this is beginning to change with some apes in some countries being referred to within law as ‘nonhuman legal persons’). Animal behaviourists and those that work closely with the great apes and other animals know that chimps, gorillas, orangutans and bonobos all demonstrate this aptitude as much as humans. In Coutts’ images, the gorillas are caught on film during moments of apparent interiority. Amongst the directive prompts of ecclesiastical architecture, they hold their own .

Theory of Mind is part of a body of work titled Man Stupid (a phrase from the gorilla Koko’s speech at the COP21 climate change conference in Paris). Man Stupid also includes See Nature, Thought Sequence and the large-scale drawing series Man Stupid.

See the publication Beast.