“We need another and a wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals. Remote from universal nature and living by complicated artifice, man in civilisation surveys the creature through the glass of his knowledge and sees thereby a feather magnified and the whole image in distortion. We patronise them for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate for having taken form so far below ourselves. And therein do we err. For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours, they move finished and complete, gifted with the extension of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings: they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of the earth.”

Henry Beston, 1928, The Outermost House: A Year of Life On The Great Beach of Cape Cod

What is lost, what is missing?

 Walking around most neighbourhoods in London, it is clear how close a relationship many of us form with the animals we share our homes with. Worry and anxiety is screaming out from the handwritten or typed notices on trees and lamp posts, pleading with us to help find a beloved cat or dog, on very rare occasions maybe a rabbit. Many of us have experienced intense loss at the death or disappearance of an animal companion.

One day, seeing these notices, we started wondering what it may mean emotionally for us when loss happens in a way that's removed from us, when it's the loss of creatures we may never have met. Does it mean anything at all?

In 2014, for the E17 Art Trail in Walthamstow, London, we collaborated on a project to explore this using paintings of five animals that have been lost within our lifetimes to human encroachment, hunting, pollution and climate change. We turned them into Lost/Missing posters, distributed them around our neighbourhood and invited people to our house during the Art Trail. Our hallway became a humble shrine to these beings where visitors could see the original paintings and write or draw their thoughts and feelings about this kind of loss on cardboard notes to add to the shrine.

It was a small gesture to honour these beings and to reflect on our relationship with the animal world and the web of life and maybe to be inspired to do something about it, whatever that may be.

In the two years since, the extinction situation has only become more grave. And so we continue look at this, to open wounds,inspire to take action, to bear witness, to document and to honor.

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