Pippa Skotnes 'Breath' - Cropped
'Breath' by Pippa Skotnes

Representations of the mind

Looking at how a mind has been visualised is another way to introduce the topic of this course. How have depictions of the mind resonated with your understanding of what a mind is?

Many of the images used in this course including the above image, the course trailer, logo and activity icons are photographs of an artwork installation by Professor Pippa Skotnes.

This installation, completed in 2013, is housed in the entrance hall to the Department of Psychology at the University of Cape Town and was inspired by psychologists’ interest in understanding the mind. It comprises the following sections:

  • a wall mural entitled ‘Breath’ that takes as its starting point the conception of the mind as expressed by |Una Rooi, one of the last speakers of N|uu, who died in 2012;
  • a set of turning boxes visualising aspects of the history and practice of the discipline of psychology;
  • three clock-like disks dedicated to Sigmund Freud, Charles Darwin and Frantz Fanon;
  • and several smaller displays depicting the history of psychology.

Breath installation

It is not obvious how to depict the mind in art or even describe it in words. Although representation of the mind has been done in many different forms - sometimes in amusing ways - we do not have a way to do this well.

Can you describe any depictions of the mind you have seen which resonate with your understanding of what the mind is?

Add your comments below. If you find or have created an image, you may also wish to share it on our Padlet Wall.

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This article is from the free online course:

What Is a Mind?

University of Cape Town