In Zoospeak, Scottish poet Gordon Meade narrates the experience of captive animals. The project was inspired by the photographs of photo journalist Jo-Anne McArthur, shown alongside the poems in the book. The poems describe the – possible – experience of the animal in question from a first person perspective, using repetition to mirror their captivity. They shift the perspective: instead of simply being looked at, the animals tell the human readers how they feel or what they perceive. This adds another layer to McArthur’s photographs.
Both the photographs and the poems operate on the border of art and politics. Words and images are used to draw attention to the captive animals’ experiences. The poems also aim to capture a state of being – boredom, or simply waiting.
The book raises many questions, regarding the relationship between art and activism, the role of language in our encounters with other animals, the problems with speaking for animals, the human gaze, and animal agency. We spoke with Meade about these and other issues.
- Meade, G & McArthur, J. (2020). Zoospeak. London: Enthusiastic Press.