Lost Cats is a research-creation project that considers the ideas of the passage of time and the process growing old with animals. More specifically we propose a critical and creative analysis of the trope of the cat lady, drawing on its popular understanding as an uncoupled, recluse older woman who shares her life with a multiplicity of cats. By conducting interviews with older women who could fit the stereotype, we strive to explore and record the often dismissed personal narratives of interspecies entanglements and accounts of living with animals through time and through processes of co-ageing.
Our project also engages with a series of lost cat posters in Montreal taken by Madden over the last decade. The research-creation component of this project will explore how the archive of lost cat posters can be understood in relation to processes of ageing, and what connectivities emerge between concepts of loss, ageing, visuality and animality. We reflect upon the materiality of the “lost cat” poster as a visual intervention in the urban space and as an artifact that is striking in its banality and commonality. But at the same time, these posters exist as creative moments of public self-disclosure of interspecies attachments and as ephemeral markers of trauma and loss. We seek to explore the evolving personal stories tied to these posters by contacting the phone numbers listed on them and recording interviews with respondents. With elders, we probe ideas of loss, passage of time and ageing with and without pets.
The interviews, their recordings and the “lost cat” posters will together serve as a starting point for an exhibit of visual and sound pieces that explore and challenge the idea of cats as gendered markers of abnormal ageing. Through this exhibit, we propose a reflection on the intermittent banality and trauma of pet loss, the (in)visibilities connected to human-animal attachments lived through age, and how these attachments intersect discursively with understandings of public and private spaces.
April 4, 2015: Presentation at the Ageing (with) Animals brainstorming day held at Concordia University