WOLF TALKS

Wolves can't talk, can they? Or can they? Wolf Talks aims to organise this conversation. It is an arts-based research project, created by Nico Carpentier, that questions the power dynamics of the discursive-material relationships between human and non-human animals. For each photograph, you can listen to a Wolf Talks sound fragment (connected with the photograph through a QR code), where a wolf will speak to you. Exceptionally, as a curtesy to you, they will speak your language. Or at least, you will understand them, even if they might challenge you a bit.

Of course, non-human animals can use language. They have vast repertoires of verbal and non-verbal communication at their disposal. They can talk, even if human animals can hardly understand them. But non-human animals cannot produce discourse, at least not when we see discourse as systematically articulated knowledge frameworks. This inability to produce discourses generates structural power imbalances, which places non-human animals in a fundamentally disadvantageous position. This imbalance is only worsened by the access that human animals have to advanced technologies.

Human animals have the ability to categorise and classify non-human animals through their discourses. They can label them as harmful, undesirable or simply irrelevant, thus, in some cases, legitimating species-cides. Predators, in particular, have been subjected to excessive violence, as they competed with human animals over territory and livestock. The European wolf, for instance, was almost completely eradicated from its habitat. One of the safe heavens that were created for them were the European zoos, but this produced a high cost for them, as these animals were then subjected to fierce restrictions, and became trapped in discursive-material enclosures.

This sometimes structurally oppressive and violent relationship between human and non-human living beings is not easy to remedy. Wolf Talks analyses and questions these inequalities, acknowledging the unequal power relations non-human animals find themselves in, symbolised by the cat-face filter, which ironically anthropomorphises them and emphasises their tragic situation. But, Wolf Talks also supports the wolves, inspired by post-colonial theory, to talk back and to continue to resist human domination. Even if this tactic is necessarily imperfect — all material is still created by human animals — these emphatic visual and auditory representations strengthen the wolves agency through role reversals and highlights their ability to resist, not only through material behaviour but also through the stewardship of these visual and auditory representations.

A first version of this exhibition was part of the 2021 Fotograf Festival in Prague (Czech Republic), with the 12 photographs displayed in 12 different locations. In October 2021, the exhibition was on display at the Hollar Gallery, also in Prague. In February 2022, the exhibition moved to Pakistan, with two exhibitions, one at the University of Okara and one at the University of the Punjab, in Lahore.


++Credits++

Wolf Talks: Nico Carpentier

Wolf voices in English (in alphabetic order): Vicky Achillidou, Yiannis Christidis, Saadia Ishtiaq Nauman, Richard Kilborn, Deborah Philips, Sam Schoeman and Chris Stachel

Wolf voices in Czech (in alphabetic order): Matěj Dadák, Kristýna Kopřivová, Filip Láb, Alžběta Medková, Jan Miessler, Hana Řičicová and Petra Urgačová. Translation to Czech: Anna Rozsypal Pajerová and Jan Miessler

Music & sound: Bart Cammaerts

This research has been supported by Mistra, the Swedish Foundation for Strategic Environmental Research, through the research programme Mistra Environmental Communication, by the Institute of Communication Studies and Journalism at Charles University, Czech Republic, by SQRIDGE, and by Fotograf Festival.

The exhibitions at the University of Okara and the University of the Punjab was supported by AMCAP, the University of Okara, the University of the Punjab, its Institute of English Studies and its Human Rights Chair.

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