Urban Foxes and the Online Ark: An Interview with Judith Doyle

Award-winning Toronto filmmaker, artist, and writer, Judith Doyle has been studying urban foxes for seven years. Her recently-defended thesis foxscape: configuring animals in urban and digital geographies, combines visual media with a text substrate, in this culminating project. Through layers of memory, academic critique, and art, foxscape investigates human-animal boundaries, natural and cultural history, and animal representation to create an experience that is highly reflexive and generative. Concentrating in part on urban foxes in Toronto and their 2001 population decimation (as a result of sarcoptic mange), Doyle explores themes of habitat loss, urbanization, adaptability, and death. Significantly, she contends, “animals are active agents of change and their representations can prompt renewed engagement with animals in the world and with our shared conditions of embodiment.”

In foxscape, Doyle also considers animal presence and agency in representation more broadly, including a fascinating exploration of early cinema, zoo display, and online. Concomitantly, then, Doyle’s work also attends to “digital geographies,” as she critically examines how animals circulate on the Internet. “Online animals are in some ways spectral,” argues Doyle, “a database of compensatory traces for species and habitat loss (like ghosts, online foxes can represent dead ones in disembodied conditions).”

Judith Doyle is an Associate Professor of Integrated Media at the Ontario College of Art and Design. Her other projects include films Private Property / Public History (1982), Launch (1982), Eye of the Mask : Theatre Nicaragua (1985), Lac La Croix (1988), Wasaga (1994), the last split second (1998), animal movies : fox past (2000) and fox : future (2001), in addition to a variety of performances that often include spoken word and written text.

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or download an mp3 of the interview.

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