A warning, a movement, a collection borne of protest.
In Watch Your Head, poems, stories, essays, and artwork sound the alarm on the present and future consequences of the climate emergency. Ice caps are melting, wildfires are raging, and species extinction is accelerating. Dire predictions about the climate emergency from scientists, Indigenous land and water defenders, and striking school children have mostly been ignored by the very institutions – government, education, industry, and media – with the power to do something about it.
Writers and artists confront colonization, racism, and the social inequalities that are endemic to the climate crisis. Here the imagination amplifies and humanizes the science. These works are impassioned, desperate, hopeful, healing, transformative, and radical.
This is a call to climate-justice action.
This anthology is not to be missed. The pandemic may have defined our year, but the climate crisis defines our time in geological history. See how this roster of talented writers and artists advance the conversation, put the crisis in context and call for climate justice.
My creative leaning is expressionistic, towards exposing the battle-lines of people vs place; the examination of the edges & intersects of nature/ construct, culture/ chaos, order/ anarchy, failure/ success; what emerges from people, collectively, and what happens when we’ve disappeared.
Decades ago, autodidact/ bloody-minded optimist kerry rawlinson gravitated from sunny Zambian skies to solid Canadian soil. Now she stalks Literature & Art’s Muses around the Okanagan Valley, still barefoot, forgetting to eat. Some contest achievements: Winner, Edinburgh International Flash Fiction Award; Hon. Mention, Fish Poetry Prize; CAGO Online Gallery. Newer pieces in Foreign Literature, Synchronized Chaos, Across The Margin, Painted Bride, Tupelo Quarterly, Connecticut River Review, Pedestal, Boned, Arc Poetry, amongst others. Visit tumblr; Tweet @kerryrawli
My artistic practice concerns a critical examination of human relationships with the natural world and how ecosystems are changing in the anthropocene. I spend time researching ecosystems and the connections within them, particularly via site visits and consultation with scientists and lay experts. My multidisciplinary practice involves collecting materials following ethical foraging practices (plants,
feathers, bones, fungi and lichen specimens, for example) from natural environments, or accessing museum collections for use as raw material in making work, and as reference material.
These large-scale still life images are produced using a high-resolution scanner as my camera: specimens collected during site visits are arranged on the glass, in groupings that serve to illustrate connections in Canadian ecosystems that may not be immediately apparent to a casual observer. The images are elegiac, dark, mourning, representing not contemporary specimens but rather, recontextualized, some last remaining pieces of a fragmented world, floating in the void.
The concepts that I seek to explore with my work – encouraging a sense of wonder, interest, and respectful stewardship with regards to the natural environment – are becoming more and more relevant. It is with increasing unease that I observe developments in human behavior at home and abroad, at the individual and institutional level, that impact negatively on the continued functioning of the complex ecosystems that we humans are part of. I feel that one of my roles as an artist is to interpret events around me and draw attention to matters of political, social, and environmental importance, and so my artistic practice aims to cultivate a deep attention to the details and intricacies of natural ecosystems, and to examine human relationships with the natural world. My pieces attempt to frame the work of plants and animals in terms that are easier for humans to understand, and potentially empathize or identify with. I hope to inspire a sense of wonder or fascination, and encourage the viewer to consider the energy and resources that go into the constant cycle of building and decay in complex environments and ecosystems.
Julya Hajnoczky was born in Calgary and raised by hippie parents, surrounded by unruly houseplants, bookishness and art supplies, with CBC radio playing softly, constantly, in the background. It was inevitable, then, that she would grow up to be an artist. She holds a BA in French from the University of Calgary and a BDes in photography from the Alberta College of Art + Design. Her multidisciplinary practice includes digital and analog photography, fibre art, and book and paper sculpture, and seeks to ask questions and inspire curiosity about the complex relationships between humans and the natural world. Her most recent adventures, supported by grants from the Calgary Arts Development Authority and the Alberta Foundation for the Arts, involved building a mobile natural history collection laboratory (a combination tiny camper and workspace, the Al Fresco Science Machine), and exploring the many ecosystems of Western
Canada, from Alberta’s Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park, to the Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve in BC and Wood Buffalo National Park, NWT. If she's not in her home studio working on something tiny, she's out in the forest working on something big. See more of Julya’s work at obscura-lucida.com
THE CONSUMPTION THERAPY™ DEMONSTRATION CHAMBER
The Consumption Therapy™ Demonstration Chamber was a performance that occurred during the 2019 Hold Fast Contemporary Arts Festival in St. John’s, Newfoundland. This performance was framed as a live demonstration of an absurdist therapy that claims to cure an individual of the drive to consume goods at the rate encouraged by our neoliberal, klepto-capitalist society.
The Chamber was a large, inflatable plastic ball, half-filled with plastic recycling that was donated by the art community in St. John’s. Plastic of all varieties was included, creating a visual cacophony of colours, textures, and advertising. During the performance I was inside the ball, in character as “The Hobbyist”, tumbling, rolling, and immersing myself in the plastic detritus, forced to confront and exist within a tiny fraction of the throwaway plastic waste that is generated each day across the world.
This performance was an absurd spectacle of a person yielding to plastic waste: a demonstration of the struggle to remove one’s self from the society that is engaging in the destruction of the planet. It reverses a person’s typical relationship with waste: instead of being rendered invisible with waste management infrastructure, it engulfs the consumer, forcing them to surrender to the evidence of their consumption.
The Consumption Therapy™ Demonstration Chamber, 2019
Arianna Richardson is a sculptor, performance artist, and mother from Treaty Seven territory (Lethbridge, AB). Richardson most often works under the pseudonym, The Hobbyist, employing hobby-craft techniques to work through an investigation of ubiquitous consumption, gendered labour, waste, excess, and spectacle.
Richardson holds a BFA (2013) in Studio Arts from the University of Lethbridge and an MFA (2018) from NSCAD in Halifax, NS. She was awarded the Roloff Beny Photography Scholarship in 2012 and the Alberta Arts Graduate Scholarship in 2016. Her work has been exhibited across Canada and has been featured in the December 2018 issue of Performance Research, “On Generosity” and Volume 8 of Emergency Index: An Annual Document of Performance Practice. Website: www.ariannarichardson.ca
AT THE END OF DAYS
“At the End of Days” is a series of photos which documents evidence of a forthcoming apocalypse. In each photo something prized by humans has been thrown away. In some cases, nature intervenes by trying to reclaim its territory, vines covering an old car, rust on metal gears left in The snow, a leaf on an old chair. Lastly, there are sunflowers picked and placed in an LCBO bag, then left in the compost heap. All of these images show a disregard for nature, a prioritizing of humans over nature instead of seeing that humans are part of nature, and our treatment of nature has consequences on the life of the planet and the continued existence of humanity.
Amanda Earl is a Canadian poet, publisher, editor, prose writer, visual poet, occasional doodler who snaps pics of broken glass and dying
flowers. She has a #chairsofOttawa series on Instagram in which she takes photos of chairs that have been thrown away. Her books are “A World of Yes” (DevilHouse, 2015), “Kiki” (Chaudiere Books, 2014) and “Coming Together Presents Amanda Earl” (Coming Together, 2014). Amanda is the managing editor of Bywords.ca and the
fallen angel of AngelHousePress.
Niro is a member of the Six Nations Reserve, Bay of Quinte Mohawk, Turtle Clan.
Shelley Niro is a multi-media artist. Her work involves photography, painting, beadwork and film. Niro is conscious the impact post-colonial mediums have had on Indigenous people. Like many artists from different Native communities, she works relentlessly presenting people in realistic and explorative portrayals. Photo series such as MOHAWKS IN BEEHIVES, THIS LAND IS MIME LAND and M: STORIES OF WOMEN are a few of the genre of artwork. Films include: HONEY MOCCASIN, IT STARTS WITH A WHISPER, THE SHIRT, KISSED BY LIGHTNING and ROBERT’S PAINTINGS. Recently she finished her film THE INCREDIBLE 25th YEAR OF MITZI BEARCLAW.
Shelley graduated from the Ontario College of Art, Honours and received her Master of Fine Art from the University of Western Ontario.
Niro was the inaugural recipient of the Aboriginal Arts Award presented through the Ontario Arts Council in 2012. In 2017 Niro received the Governor General’s Award For The Arts from the Canada Council, The Scotiabank Photography Award and also received the Hnatyshyn Foundation REVEAL Award. Niro recently received an honorary doctorate from the Ontario College of Arts and Design University. She also was the 2019 Laureate of the Paul de Hueck and Norman Walford Career Achievement Award for Photography.
Alana Bartol, Orphan Well Adoption Agency, 2017-ongoing
Founded in 2017, Orphan Well Adoption Agency (OWAA) explores new methods of reading, assessing, and understanding the health of sites contaminated by the oil and gas industry. As part of its work, OWAA is dedicated to finding symbolic caretakers for orphan oil and gas wells across Alberta. As of 2020, over 60 wells have been symbolically adopted.
From 2017-2019, Orphan Well Adoption Agency held temporary offices in Alberta at TRUCK Contemporary Art, Latitude 53, and Art Gallery of Grande Prairie. Members of the public were invited to meet with OWAA representatives and apply to symbolically adopt a well. If approved, caretakers received a certificate of adoption with the name and location of an orphan well in Alberta along with a postcard of a well. Caretakers also have the option receive mailed correspondence from their well.
OWAA re-imagines dowsing (aka water-witching) as a form of technology for environmental remediation, one that might shift our relationship to natural resources, while examining remediation, care, and the reliability of information. OWAA dowsers uncover information and messages from well sites which transcribed and mailed to caretakers. Although some wells may be dormant and uncommunicative, the OWAA makes every attempt to reach them.
Part of the OWAA’s mission is to share information and educate the public about the plight of orphan wells and related issues. The number of orphan wells has steadily increased since the OWAA began its work in 2017. As defined by the Orphan Well Association (OWA), a non‐profit organization that operates under the delegated legal authority of the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER), an orphan is “an oil or gas well site which has been investigated and confirmed as not having any legally responsible and/or financially able party to deal with its abandonment and reclamation responsibilities”. (Orphan Well Association) These sites threaten to contaminate land, water, and life, with remediation efforts lasting up to a decade. Unlike the OWA, OWAA extends the definition of orphan wells to include the 90,000 inactive (or suspended) and 77,000 abandoned wells in Alberta that are not yet fully reclaimed. (Government of Alberta) Though these well sites are still under the responsibility of their company caretaker, they are in the OWAA orphanage so that they might find the recognition and care they deserve. With no time limits on how long a well can sit dormant, many sit in various states of disrepair and remediation, with leaks, spills and excess gas.
Learn more at: www.orphanwelladoptionagency.com.
Thank you Canada Council for the Arts and Alberta Foundation for the Arts for their generous support of this work. The work of the OWAA has been made possible through connections with Surface Rights Groups in Alberta.
Government of Alberta, “Upstream oil and gas liability and orphan well inventory.” Alberta, Government of Alberta, 2020, https://www.alberta.ca/upstream-oil-and-gas-liability-and-orphan-well-inventory.aspx. Accessed 26 Feb 2020.
Orphan Well Association, “FAQ.” Orphan Well Association, 2020, http://www.orphanwell.ca/faq. Accessed 28 Feb 2020.
 Abandoned is an industry term for a well that has been permanently dismantled, meaning that the surface infrastructure was removed, and the well is plugged with cement and capped. Not all abandoned wells are orphan wells, most of the abandoned wells in the province are still the responsibility of the company owner. After abandonment, the next step is to reclaim the site.
Alana Bartol comes from a long line of water witches. Her site-responsive works explore divination as a way of understanding across places, species, and bodies. Through collaborative and individual works, she creates relationships between the personal sphere and the landscape, particular to this time of ecological crisis. A multidisciplinary artist with a B.F.A. from the University of Windsor and an M.F.A. from Detroit’s Wayne State University, she has been a visitor to Treaty 7 territory living and working in Mohkinstsis (Calgary), Alberta for 5 years. Bartol’s work has been exhibited and presented nationally and internationally in galleries and festivals. In 2019, she was longlisted for the Sobey Art Award. She currently teaches at Alberta University of the Arts.
WATCHING THE DULL EDGES (THE NORTHERN HEMISPHERE OF A 23°27′ TILT)
Watching Dull Edges (the northern hemisphere of a 23°27′ tilt) is a series of photographs documenting the act of sitting in Canada during the winter of 2017 carefully watching the last snowfall of the year melting inside a test tube. It is a meditation on what it means to be living through the end of planetary regularities, like the seasons as we have come to know them. Winter in Canada as long months of accumulating snow fall will shortly be no more, if it isn’t already gone; this work considers what it means to live with this awareness.
Watching Dull Edges (the northern hemisphere of a 23°27′ tilt) is a work about paying attention to change, even when it arrives with slowly, or with dull edges. It is about staying still to attune oneself to a loss whose material and temporal dimensions are so vast we struggle to make sense of them. How do we stop to not just notice but truly register and mourn these losses accumulating? What practices can we enact to connect our lived experiences of the world with this urgent new reality?
Lisa Hirmer is an interdisciplinary artist who works across visual media, social practice, performance and occasionally writing. She is primarily concerned with collective relationships: that which exists between things, rather than simply within them—particularly in relation to collective beliefs and in human relations with the more-than human world. Her work finds home both in gallery contexts and an expanded field of other public spaces. It has been shown across Canada and internationally. She has received numerous grants and residencies for her work including from Canada Council for the Arts, Ontario Arts Council, Robert Rauschenberg Foundation and Camargo Foundation.
Lisa Hirmer would like to acknowledge The Art Gallery of Ontario for project support.
Marco Reiter is an artist whose works include photography, sculpture and installation art. His mixed-media assemblages combine photographic images with wood, metal, and discarded materials. A long-time meditation student, Marco’s work is contemplative, and explores ideas around transformation, healing, and interconnection, often relating to human relations with the natural world, and ecology. As a lifelong “maker”—he’s been a carpenter for more than 16 years—Marco embraces building as a mode of expression. His photography has been exhibited in Toronto and Kingston and featured in such publications as The New Quarterly and The Animal Game (Tightrope Books).
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.
I am from Nunatsiavut (in Labrador). We Inuit have always been known as “Sikumiut; People of the Sea”, meaning that we lived and survived by the sea ice as a means for subsistence, travel, traditional cultural practices (as well as contemporary). In the four Inuit Regions Nunatsiavut (in Labrador), Nunavik (in Arctic Quebec), Nunavut and Inuvialuit Settlement Region in the Western Arctic, we see the most effects of ice loss due to climate change.
Each year it takes longer for ice to form and as a result, hunter and trappers and community members are not able to go out on the ice or land, leading to less food for both hunter and community. Our Ice is melting and we are all at fault (humanity). We have no one else to blame but us and humans are contributing to loss of practices, changes in animal migration, traditions, community well-being, less time on the land and less interaction with the environment.
As an Inuk living in Ottawa, I ask myself, do people really understand the potential and real risk of climate change? How is it affecting our regions, our lives and our environment. Do we understand the consequences and effects associated with melting snow and ice; natural disasters, time, awareness, funding and polices or lack of them. Who is talking about it, who is concerned about it, and what are we going to do as a result of it? The images selected from my Ice Works is an attempt to bring awareness to and of climate change and global warming from an urban Inuk artist’s perspective.
Below are selected images from De-Iced photo series, on-going project
** Two of the photographs from the series, Policy Gone Awry and After the Melt, are part of the upcoming group exhibition Qautamaat | Every day / everyday at the Art Gallery of Guelph
Barry Pottle is an Inuk artist from Nunatsiavut in Labrador (Rigolet), now living in Ottawa, Ontario. He has worked with the Indigenous arts community for many years particularly in the city of Ottawa. Barry has always been interested in photography as a medium of artistic expression and as a way of exploring the world around him. Living in Ottawa, which has the largest urban population of Inuit outside the North, Barry has been able to stay connected to the greater Inuit community.
Through the camera’s len, Barry showcases the uniqueness of this community. Whether it is at a cultural gathering, family outings or the solitude of nature that photography allows, he captures the essence of Inuit life in Ottawa. From a regional perspective, living in the Nation’s Capital allows him to travel throughout the valley and beyond to explore and photograph people, places and events.
He believes that the concept of Urban Inuit is relatively new and for the most part unexplored (compared to other Urban Indigenous groups in Canada) so as an artist, he seeks to articulate this. “The camera,” he shares, “allows me to explore connection and continuity with my heritage and culture especially with regards to the contemporary reality of being an Urban Inuk.”
Barry’s photos have been published in a variety of magazines (Makivik Magazine, Inuktitut Magazine, Inuit Art Quarterly) and he has also contributed images to a number of community initiatives.
Crossing The Line (2015)
Archival Pigmented Print, 22 x 33 inches
The Greening (2015)
Archival Pigmented Print, 22 x 33 inches
Ideas in Things (2018)
Archival Pigmented Print, 22 x 33 inches
The Horizon Felt photographs use color to create new cartographies of the polar regions. Using the horizon and colours from the landscape as points of reference, Jessica Houston placed different coloured felt in front of her lens while photographing the north and south poles. Abandoned outposts, remote scientific stations, and retreating glaciers speak to the life of places and the storied matter that shapes them. These photographs take stock of the embedded histories of the poles and their entanglement of colonialism, capitalism and environmental injustice, while opening up a space for rethinking the ‘natural’.
Jessica Houston travels from pole to pole—using objects, oral narratives, photography, and painting. Her collaborative projects include site-specific oral histories that amplify place as a living process and build knowledge across and human and more-than-human spectrum. She works on projects involving communities and their relationship to their environments in the Canadian Arctic, Antarctica, Greenland, Iceland, and Italy. Houston has created site-specific works for the New Jersey MOCA, Asbury Park, New Jersey; the Castello di Corigliano, Puglia, Italy; Governors Island, NY, NY; and The Albany Airport, Albany, NY. Her works are funded by The Canada Council for the Arts and are in the collections of Prêt d’oeuvres d’art, Musée National Des Beaux-Arts du Quebec;Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec (BAnQ), Montréal, Québec; Bank of Montréal, Toronto; and the Consulate General of Monaco, Montréal. She has been invited to The Albers Foundation Residency, CAMAC Centre for Art, Science and Technology in France, and Skagaströnd in Iceland.
Watch Your Head is an online journal of creative works devoted to the climate crisis and climate justice.
New work is published monthly!
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Watch Your Head: Writers & Artists Respond to the Climate Crisis
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