Skotnes' large-scale artwork unveiled in psychology department

29 May 2013 | Story by Newsroom

Prof Pippa Skotnes' new artwork, BreathTour de force: Prof Pippa Skotnes' new artwork, Breath, can be viewed from the ground floor of the PD Hahn Building. It was commissioned for the Department of Psychology's new home.

With the complexity of the mind as its theme, Professor Pippa Skotnes' striking four-part, mixed media artwork, Breath, welcomes visitors, staff and students to the Department of Psychology's new home in the PD Hahn Building on upper campus.

Commissioned by the UCT Works of Art Committee, the work was recently unveiled, each section reflecting a different theme: time and memory, the progressive development of the discipline of psychology; picturing the mind, which suggests a particular mapping of the mind onto the brain; other minds, such as ancestral, mammalian and human minds; and an homage to individuals who have made a significant contribution to understanding the human mind.

Head of department and member of the UCT Works of Art Committee, Professor Mark Solms, said: "The wellspring of Pippa Skotnes' Breath is the immaterial nature of the mind. She intuits that the invisibility and intangibility of the mind must have disturbed our human ancestors since the very beginnings of self-awareness. Where do the souls of our beloved sons/mothers/lovers go when they breathe their last breath? And what will become of mine? Their bodies seem to remain with us, initially unchanged, and yet their very essence is gone. What is the nature of that essence?

"Surely this question was the starting point of psychology. And yet academic psychology has, from its outset, sought to distance itself from this most essential feature of the mind: its subjectivity. Proper 'objective' sciences do not deal with such fluffy things. So we drill hard statistical and other quantitative research methods into our poor students, until they drop, or at least until they drop their naïvity about psychology - which they had wrongly assumed tackled the richness and mysteries of the life of the mind."

In his review by Peter Anderson, chair of the Works of Art Committee, said: "Professor Pippa Skotnes' commission for the newly transplanted psychology department is at once magisterial in its scholarship and a visual tour de force."

He continued: "Skotnes has collated quotations and milestones from the hinterland of academic psychology and deployed them in dispositions that are both exemplary of the field and eccentric enough to celebrate the human mind and its incorrigible variety."

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