White Noise comprises a text – a duel and dovetailed account of a journey by foot through unfamiliar, difficult and possibly dangerous territory together with the image of a Greenlandic sled dog standing guard outside an ad hoc shelter of wooden palettes.
The two of us had walked together in Greenland through uninhabited and difficult terrain for five days. On our return we each wrote an account of the experience including specific responses to events on the journey including thoughts, anxieties, expressions of wonder and even dreams, sequenced in the order by which they occurred. Both narratives begin and end with descriptions of the walk itself but with the serial cut-and-paste delivery of short phrases from each protagonist in turn, the narrative sequence is disrupted as things are remembered differently and with different emphasis. As a consequence, similar experiences reappear almost as memories, haunting the narrative of the other.
During the same period we’d travelled further north and it was in Ilulissat, well into the Arctic, that we’d become fascinated with the colonies of sled dogs occupying parts of the town and its surroundings. In Ilulissat at that time, the dogs outnumbered the human population of 4000 by half as much again. What fascinated us and in some senses set off our long term interests in human/animal relationships was the distinctive and liminal place these animals held in a (simplified) spectrum ranging (in decreasing proximity to the human) from pets (companion species) through working animals, to livestock, game, feral and finally beyond to wild animals.
Simplified or not, there in the north, what we were told and indeed what we observed, was that in relation to the Greenlandic sled dog, the term ‘pet potential’ is an oxymoron. They have been bred to work for humans whilst still maintaining a highly developed sense of pack hierarchy. Historically, (unsubstantiated) stories abound of the regular replenishing of strength and wildness in the stock by staking females in heat out in areas where there are wolves. In this subject we were drawn to the embodiment of conflated domesticity (familiarity) and wildness (uncertainty) which remained resistant to both classifications.
To read the text work, open the PDF here