ISLAND OF THE DEAD
Rise of the Island of the Dead (2019)
Oil on wood panel, 17 X 19 inches (irregular dimensions)
After the photo Earth Rise (1968) taken by William Anders, crew of the Apollo 8 mission. Earth Rise is often attributed as being a photograph that contributed immensely to modern environmental awareness. It is predated by black and white photographs taken by an unmanned lunar orbiter two years prior, but it was the blue of the earth taken in Ander’s photo that resonated with millions of people. That brilliant blue contrasts with the dead grey of the lifeless moon and the stark black of the surrounding nothingness, emphasizing the jewel-like fragility of our own world.
Island of the Dead (2019)
Oil on wood panel, 23.5 X 23.5 inches (irregular dimensions)
After the photo Blue Marble (1972) taken by the crew of the Apollo 17 mission.
Oil on wood panel, 34 X 27 inches (irregular dimensions)
After Caspar David Friedrich’s Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog (1818). Friedrich’s painting is often used to represent the Romanticism movement and the sublime. Romanticism was in part a reaction to the industrial revolution marked by a nostalgia for an untouched natural world and a reverence for its overwhelming power. Ironically the spread and continuation of that industrialism is predicted to set in motion a new overpowering version of nature that does not include us. The original painting uses Rückenfigur; a compositional technique with a figure seen from behind contemplating a view before them. In this painting there is no figure; the future view of a dead world is instead seen from behind in time.
Garden of Earthly Remains (2019)
Oil on wood panel, 21 X 60 inches (irregular dimensions)
After Hieronymus Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights (1490 -1510). The five structures in this painting are based off the ones from the center panel of Bosch’s triptych painting. That painting suggests a moral warning about the consequences of a humanity let loose to act without boundaries. In my painting all the abundance of life and wild humanity from that center panel are gone with only the structures remaining.
Island of the Dead - Artist Statement
This work is focused on a scientific prediction of a change in the colour of the sky and oceans as a result of climate change. I came across this theory through the writings of Professor of Paleontology and Biology at Washington University, Peter Ward. He describes how in the past an increase in carbon dioxide has led to anoxic oceans where hydrogen sulfide producing bacteria altered the chemistry of the environment so that the oceans became purple and the sky became green. I first encountered this scientific prediction in Tim Flannery’s book about the urgent need for climate change action, Now or Never. He quotes Ward from his book Under a Green Sky where he describes a vision of a dead ocean and poisonous sky:
Look out on the surface of the great sea itself, and as far as the eye can see there is a mirrored flatness, an ocean without whitecaps. Yet that is not the biggest surprise. From shore to the horizon, there is but an unending purple colour – a vast, flat oily purple, not looking at all like water. . . The colour comes from a vast concentration of purple bacteria. . . At last there is motion on the sea, yet it is not life, but antilife. Not far from the fetid shore, a large bubble of gas belches from the viscous oil slick-like surface. . . It is hydrogen sulphide, produced by green sulphur bacteria growing amid their purple cousins. There is one final surprise. We look upward, to the sky. High, vastly high overhead, there are thin clouds existing far in excess of the highest clouds found on our Earth. They exist in a place that changes the very colour of the sky itself. We are under a pale green sky, and it has the smell of death and poison.
As a painter, this change in colour of the world’s landscapes captivated me. The blue of the sky and oceans seems to have always been and as if it always will be. This new colour pallet for the world will be sublime, strange and beautiful, but there will likely be no one around left to see it. Approaching climate change in painting through this change in colour is a phenomenological way to know an issue that is often hard for people to feel convinced of except as an abstract theory. I first came to this subject while working in Berlin last Winter and Spring. I spent a lot of time in Europe visiting museums and seeing historical paintings and contemplating my relationship to them and their relationship to today and came to specifically consider their associations to the environment and climate change. From that research I made a series of paintings referencing historical paintings and images, setting them in that future of purple oceans and green skies predicted by Ward.
Adam Gunn is a painter whose work focuses on interests in ideas about natural and unnatural orders with a deep concern for how an image is brought into being. He was both formed and grown in Nova Scotia and currently dwells in Montreal. He has accumulated an MFA from Concordia University and a BFA from NSCAD University. He’s been semi-finalist in the RBC Canadian Painting Competition twice, and recently completed a 5-month residency in Berlin as part of the Nancy Petry Award.
Tree Sketches were each composed by a different species of tree. As a writer, connected to story, I felt it a salient action in this time of environmental crisis to step back and listen to the subjects I might otherwise have written over.
Each caption includes the species of trees, both common and Latin names, as well as the duration and date of each composition.
Tree Sketches # 1 & 3 were originally published by The Blasted Tree in 2017 as a series of broadsides, while the remaining works are presented on its website, all of them presented under the title The Sign of Poetry.
Sacha Archer is a writer who works in numerous mediums as well as being the editor of Simulacrum Press. Archer’s most recent publications include Inkwells: An Event Poem (Noir:Z, 2019), TSK oomph (Inspiritus Press, 2018) and Contemporary Meat (The Blasted Tree, 2018). Houses (No Press), Framing Poems and Mother’s Milk (both Timglaset) are forthcoming. Archer lives in Burlington, Ontario with his wife and two daughters.
READING THE MURMURATIONS
In the end times, they say,
the birds might silence themselves,
drop feathers as hints, molt at odd times,
and mate with their fiercest rivals.
But the days will arrive
no bells rung with symbolism,
no trumpet voluntary flourish,
no drums rolling attendant.
They will have already arrived,
these muted and too quiet days,
dressed in common clothing
and pretending to fit in–
silencing mothers and lovers
as they come, trailing catastrophe
in their muddied wake.
Kim Fahner was the fourth poet laureate for the City of Greater Sudbury (2016-18), and was the first woman appointed to the role. Her latest book of poems is These Wings (Pedlar Press, 2019). She is a member of the League of Canadian Poets, the Writers’ Union of Canada, and a supporting member of the Playwrights Guild of Canada. Kim blogs fairly regularly at kimfahner.wordpress.com and can be reached via her author website at www.kimfahner.com
it’s all unseasonal rains
winter in the Great Lakes these days
in niibin the boreal is ablaze
the amazon and outback aflame
increasing tsunamis and earthquakes
and all we can do is yell CLIMATE CHANGE
what else do we say?
while the US keeps taking brown babies away
numbered like the West Bank
Japanese internment camps
the Indian act
our migration routes are older than your borders
we have cultural items older than your legal orders
this is natural law renaissance
embodying ancestors’ excellence
bringing land back
on ready when RCMP attack
resistance is a way of living
Sâkihitowin Awâsis is a Michif Anishinaabe two-spirit water protector, geographer, and spoken word artist from the pine marten clan. She has contributed poetry to Forever Loved: Exposing the Hidden Crisis of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in Canada, Red Rising Magazine, kimiwan ‘zine, and Introducing Atrocities Against Indigenous Canadians for Dummies. She is continually inspired by acts of decolonization, Indigenous resurgence, and community resistance. Follow @awan.ikwe.
SCREAMING INTO A PIANO
… The pictures captured a mood of as much astonishment as joy; it was as if the delegates could not quite believe they had succeeded in reaching an agreement of such significance.
- Amitav Ghosh
Recalling decision 1 / CP.17 on the establishment of a room
wide enough to hold your imagining. Like the moon
fallen onto the field, new
& mistaken by my aunt for a spaceship. Also recalling
relevant decisions to respond to everything by screaming.
Rain lines. Parts per million diluted
light. Each acre along this river
& if there are still children blowing tufts int o
iv e n
the adoption of planned repairs for the south
entrance north alley west gate. Recognizing that
even in crossing towards it I would stubbornly
remain a parallel incident. Reimagining no one
there. Back bicycle wheel spinning
hillside. Throwing the moon.
Acknowledging that agreeing to uphold & promote
revisions ought to be enough
this time. Singing.
"Screaming into a Piano" previously appeared in a chapbook Night Leaves Nothing New (Baseline Press Oct 2019)
Emily Lu earned her B.Sc. at the University of Toronto and her M.D. at Queen’s University. Currently completing her postgraduate training in psychiatry, she lives in London, Ontario. Night Leaves Nothing New (Baseline Press) is her first chapbook.
The aesthetics of environmental erasure—of what goes, what remains, and what is brought back to us on the tide.
Kevin Adonis Browne is a Caribbean American photographer, writer, and speaker. His award-winning visual and written work exist at the intersection of fine art, documentary, street photography, creative nonfiction, and memoir in what he calls: A discourse on the legacies of light as a way to understand the poetics of Caribbean culture.”
Born in Trinidad and Tobago, he attended Presentation College in the southern city of San Fernando. In 1990, he emigrated to the United States, settling in the Bronx and Brooklyn. In 2003, he was awarded a Bachelor of Arts degree in English at Medgar Evers College (CUNY) in Brooklyn, later earning a Master of Arts in English in 2006 and a PhD in English in 2009 from The Pennsylvania State University. He has taught at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Syracuse University, and Bentley University. In 2017, he returned to Trinidad and Tobago, where he teaches at the University of the West Indies (St. Augustine). He is co-founder of the Caribbean Memory Project and is the author of two books: Tropic Tendencies: Rhetoric, Popular Culture, and the Anglophone Caribbean (2013) and HIGH MAS: Carnival and the Poetics of Caribbean Culture (2018), which won the prestigious Bocas Prize in Caribbean Literature in 2019. Following a successful launch in the streets of Port of Spain, Trinidad, he has had solo exhibitions in the United States and the United Kingdom.
Carleigh Baker is an nêhiyaw âpihtawikosisân /Icelandic writer who lives as a guest on the unceded territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm, Skwxwú7mesh, and səl̓ilwəta peoples. Her work has appeared in Best Canadian Essays, The Short Story Advent Calendar, and The Journey Prize Stories. She also writes reviews for the Globe and Mail and the Literary Review of Canada. Her debut story collection, Bad Endings (Anvil, 2017) won the City of Vancouver Book Award, and was also a finalist for the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize, the Emerging Indigenous Voices Award for fiction, and the BC Book Prize Bill Duthie Booksellers’ Choice Award. She is the 2019/20 writer in residence and a 2020 Shadbolt fellow in the humanities at Simon Fraser University.
“Wailsong 4 Sydney” collects instances of a novel form of found poetry that I call the amput(ransl)ation. First, a random string of alphanumeric characters is typed by hand into Google translate, which misinterprets this string as a legitimate entry in one or another language (often, but not always, recognizing it as Arabic script). Then, one or more characters are iteratively excised from the string, producing a descending sequence of alternate translations, until not much more than a stump is left.
While perusing this form, on January 10th, 2020, in the midst of the Australian bushfire crisis, I happened upon a sequence that spoke of Sydney, Australia, of greenness and heat, of smoke, and of payment. Delving a bit deeper, I identified the sequence in question, and explored various permutations of both the string and the type and order of character excisement, ultimately producing this sequence of found poetry, which serves as a dirgesong for the bushfire crisis currently underway in Australia.
It is typeset here in Australia, an open-source typeface designed by Denver Ross that "takes inspiration from the arches of the Sydney Opera House to the waves of Bondi Beach."
Franco Cortese is an experimental poet living in Thorold, Ontario. His poetry was longlisted for the 2019 CBC Poetry Prize and has appeared in Literary Review of Canada, The Malahat Review, Canadian Literature, The Capilano Review, filling Station, ditch, and others. His recent chapbooks include aeiou (No Press 2018), uoiea (above/ground press 2019), and teksker (Simulacrum Press 2019). He also has leaflets, booklets and other poetic ephemera out through The Blasted Tree, Penteract Press, and Spacecraft Press. His work has been published both within Canada and internationally, and has been anthologized in Concrete and Constraint (Penteract Press 2018) and Science Poems (Penteract Press 2020).
Becoming Rock (2018)
Video excerpts from a series of 13 video performances (02:57)
Becoming Rock: Road Rock (2019)
Video still image from performance series ‘Becoming Rock’
Becoming Rock is a series of performative videos that explore the relationship between body and earth through the repeated action of becoming a rock within the landscape. Although it is physically impossible to merge with the land, Jessica Slipp sees the exposure of each repeated attempt as an absurd, awkward, yet genuine and honest gesture to engage with the land.
Jessica Slipp uses rocks as a form and means to compact earth and time. She is interested in what rocks contain and how, when deconstructed, they return to tiny particles of matter – the elemental component to the fabric of the universe and where all of life began. With concern for planet Earth, she looks to Donna Haraway’s rethinking of the Anthropocene and use of the term Chthulucene to describe our current epoch. This encourages the process of thinking, making, and being with all living and non-living species. In this time of ecological crisis and global climate change, it is vitally important to shift anthropocentric modes of thinking about the world to thinking with the world.
Jessica Slipp is a Visual Artist currently living and working in the unceded Indigenous land of the Kanien’kehá:ka Nation in Tiohtiá:ke (Montréal). As an interdisciplinary artist her work investigates notions of place, uncovers new perspectives of land & landscape, and challenges the way we exist within the world. She is interested in the the ways that place and identity are embedded in the land through geological, ecological, and human histories, and the intrinsic connection we all share with the world — from the particles that randomly composed it, to the very nature that we embody. Through her artwork she attempts to repattern perspectives towards a more caring and compassionate engagement with the world, and seeks to find new ways of rekindling the fundamental relationship between body and earth.
When you leave, take with you the way light shimmered
gold in the river,
how the weight of what you loved swirled into filigreed
gold in the river.
That was how it felt to me, as the eventide of the
when I first crossed into illumination at the
threshold of the river.
There were mapmakers before me: their footfalls fade
tender on the earth.
Like you, they brought palms of amaryllis, asked to be
consoled by the river.
There's a pond in the forest whose water only ripples
where you weep.
But here, all ruptures. Let your heart flood,
uncontrolled, into the river.
Listen: the saga unbraids. Loyalties shift, fish-dappled
in her surge.
You can no more submerge a story than you can
hold a river.
Carry all you can into the world, a tributary. But
pilgrim, linger a little.
Sit a while beside me. There are renderings still
untold in the river.
* This poem is from Sharanya Manivannan's second collection, The Altar of the Only World (HarperCollins India, 2017).
Sharanya Manivannan is the author of five books of fiction, poetry and children's literature, including the novel The Queen of Jasmine Country, which was longlisted for the 2019 JCB Prize, longlisted for the Mathrubumi of the Year Award 2020, shortlisted for The Hindu Prize 2019, and the short story collection The High Priestess Never Marries, which won the 2015-2016 South Asia Laadli Media and Advertising Award for Gender Sensitivity (Best Book – Fiction).
Watch Your Head is an online anthology of creative works devoted to the climate crisis and climate justice.
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