man stupid

An exhibition of drawings, writings and other multimedia artworks, that explores establishing a 'community of equals' amongst all Great Apes, humans included.

at Danielle Arnaud

In 2015 Koko the gorilla addressed the Paris United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 21) using sign language. Taught from infancy by US researcher Dr Penny Patterson Koko ‘understood’ over 2000 spoken English words and the equivalent in signs before her recent death in June 2018 aged 46. Her grasp of language was comparable to a 5-year old human child. At COP 21 she ‘spoke’ with her hands and arms, as ‘the voice of nature’. She said, ‘man stupid’, ‘nature see you’, ‘fix nature’.

Koko’s case demonstrates that the cognitive difference between humans and animals is far smaller than is often assumed. In their collection of essays, The Great Ape Project: Equality beyond Humanity (1994), editors Paola Cavalieri and Peter Singer remind us: ‘We are human, and we are also great apes.’ Yet despite our genetic closeness with gorillas, orangutans and chimpanzees, it is only recently, that the possibility of extending basic legal protective rights to all the Great Apes, with the intention of forming ‘a community of equals’ is becoming a possibility.

Coutts’ exhibition of drawings, writings and other multimedia artworks, operates as though this ‘community of equals’ has already become a reality. The artist draws on five of the signed phrases Koko used during her address to look at what happens with ‘language’ when we attempt to form greater intimacies with neighbouring species. Each work considers the message humankind asked Koko to convey and questions whether we have the facility to understand it or act on it ourselves. Through interspecies connections and experimental practices of making, it rethinks what language might be if we allowed our fellow apes closer.

Danielle Arnaud

Opening Times
Preview: Friday 14 September, 6-9pm
15 September - 13 October 2018
Thursday to Saturday, 2-6pm

Danielle Arnaud
123 Kennington Road
SE11 6SF