What is your Wolf Talk?
Access the Wolf Talk by the QR code displayed next to the image, or listen to the wolves at https://wolftalksinsweden.commedia.wiki/#/ Photos by Elisabeth Wennerström
What is your Wolf Talk?
Silencing/Unsilencing Nature: the media and arts-based research sound- and image installation Wolf Talks – in Sweden thru November 5.
by Elisabeth Wennerström
The sound- and image installation Wolf Talks – now on display in central locations in Uppsala – is sprung from the media and the arts project (Un)silencing Nature, developed by communications researcher Nico Carpentier at the Institute for Communication Studies and Journalism at Charles University, Prague, in 2020. The project is grounded in a discursive-material knot perspective “on the tactic of unsilencing” (Carpentier, 2017).
The Wolf Talk exhibit starts out with the wolf’s perspective and its oftentimes contested positions – but more importantly does not linger there for long, but rather resets the focal point onto a broader spectrum from where representations and positions can be unpacked, discursively and materially. The idea is not to reflect factual representations around any one position, but rather to follow along the lupocentric1 entry-point to make visible power hierarchies and to explore positional perspectives with more sustainable communication, i.e. the tactic of unsilencing towards more respectful and emphatic practices.
Societal partners, participatory processes
Wolf Talks is an interventionist and change-oriented research exhibit and project. As always, the meaning of an exhibit depends on the context in which it is displayed, experienced, and acted on. It is a collage, combining 12 photographs of wolves with cat filters and superimposed theoretical questions e.g. about agency, voice, and empowerment. The study suggests possibilities for sustainable communication practices not only through its multi-layered collage format, but in soundscapes where the wolves talk back.
Furthermore, local societal partners in Uppsala display the exhibit images and posters in their cafés, bookshops, the university student union, an optician, bakeries, a hair salon, the city archive, and libraries. Moreover, the exhibit is promoted by local tourism and promotional offices, and the Swedish version of the twelve wolf voices are represented by twelve volunteer readers.
One of the project’s central concepts is agency. As expressed by Barad (2007): “Agency is not held, it is not a property of persons or things; rather, agency is an enactment, a matter of possibilities for reconfiguring entanglements” (p. 54). The different partners’ collaboration engages with the project’s locus to “give nature (and in particular wolves) more of a voice in the human world, thus attempting to contribute to a change in the power relations between humans and nature” (Carpentier, 2022, p. 93): Contacts with the project’s societal partners equally reflect a broad interest in environmental communication.
The project’s challenge, that is also reflected in possibilities, is to capture and balance contextual representations with lived experience. It underlines the centrality of the project’s lupocentric perspective, translated into an ethics of care and empathy, while it also acknowledges potentially innate and continued representations.
Wolf Talks in the Czech Republic and in Pakistan – now in central Uppsala
With a set-up similar as the installation in Uppsala, Wolf Talks first appeared in central locations in Prague during the Fotograf Festival Fall 2021. Later, the exhibit was displayed at Hollar Gallery in Prague, and in February 2022 at the universities in Okara and Punjab, Pakistan.
Many more voices exist, along with spaces where Wolf Talks could be displayed – therefore the exhibit invites audiences to write their own Wolf Talks on the Wolf Talks project website, https://wolftalksinsweden.commedia.wiki/#/
Elisabeth Wennerström completed the Master’s Program in Social Sciences: Digital Media and Society in the Department of Informatics and Media at Uppsala University, and is now an Erasmus+ Trainee at the Institute of Communication Studies and Journalism at Charles University, Prague, working on the Wolf Talks project.
Carpentier, N. (2017). The discursive-material knot: Cyprus in conflict and community media participation. New York: Peter Lang.
Carpentier, N. (2022) Silencing/Unsilencing Nature: A ‘Lupocentric’ Remediation of Animal-Nature Relationships, Central European Journal of Communication 15, 1(30): 92-111.