Watch Your Head
Coach House Books, 2020
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.
Cover design by Ingrid Paulson
...Watch Your Head does not disappoint. It serves as a warning to heed, a reminder to be thought of often, and a well-thought-out piece of art. Throughout the anthology, readers encounter pieces that provoke and insist, demanding attention, consideration, action, and creativity. Essays and stories and images alike bring about questions and statements on Indigenous rights, white privilege, exploitation of land and people, colonial power structures, place, home, language, and imagination.
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.
Dear Tree, From Shadow
Bijarim-ro in Jeju Island is a two-lane road connecting two nearby towns, Songdang and Gyorae. With justifications such as high traffic for tourists using this road and the convenience of transportation for the residents of Songdang, the provincial government of Jeju unilaterally pushed for the “Bijarim Road Expansion Project” in 2018. Since then, 1,000 cedar trees had been clear-cut around Bijarim-ro.
Upon hearing the news, a small group of people came out to protect the forest. Sometimes with the support of the residents, other times with the extra help from the creatures living in Bijarim-ro forest, they’ve been protecting the forest for the last three years.
I also heard the news about Bijarim-ro, but I couldn’t run out to the forest like them. Perhaps because of their sound of resistance occupying a small corner of my heart, at some point, without thinking, I was out making work with stones by rolling them around in the Bijarim cedar forest. While working there, I met the “Bijarim-ro Cedar Forest Keepers” and was invited to participate in an art event that they organized.
I send this video letter to a tree once faced the light, and to a tree facing the light right now.
제주도 ‘비자림로’는 ‘송당’과 ‘교래’를 잇는 2차선 도로이다. 이 도로를 사용하는 관광객 교통 수요 증가와 ‘송당’ 주민들의 교통 편의를 명분으로, 제주도 도정道政은 2018년 ‘비자림로 확장공사’를 일방적으로 밀어붙였다. 결국 ‘비자림로’ 주변 삼나무 1000여 그루가 벌목되었다.
이 소식을 들은 제주 시민들은 현장으로 뛰어나와 ‘비자림로 삼나무 숲’을 지키기 위한 저항운동을 시작하였다. 때로는 시민들의 호응을 받으며, 때로는 비자림로에 사는 뭇 생명들의 힘을 빌어 3년 간 이곳을 지키고 있다.
나 또한 비자림로의 소식을 들었지만, 그들처럼 ‘비자림로 삼나무 숲’으로 달려가진 못했다. 내 마음 한 켠을 차지하고 있던 그들의 함성 때문 이었을까? 언제 부턴가 나는 작업을 한답시고 ‘비자림로 삼나무 숲’에서 돌멩이를 굴리고 있었다. 그러던 중 ‘비자림로 삼나무 숲’ 지킴이들이 진행하는 문화행사에 참여하게 되었다.
한 때 빛을 향했던 나무에게, 그리고 지금 빛을 향하고 있는 나무에게 이 영상편지를 보낸다.
고승욱/ Koh, Seung Wook
I was born and raised in Jeju Island.
For 20 years, I lived in Seoul, building my art career.
Even though I’ve been back in Jeju for over 10 years,
I’m still learning about the island and
I surprise myself for my ignorance of Jeju.
제주도에서 나고 자랐다.
20년간 서울에서 미술활동을 했고
제주 내려온지 10년이 지나고 있다.
늦깍기 제주공부에 매달리면서
제주에 대한 자신의 무지함에 새삼 놀라고 있다.
판교낙생대공원 / at the Pangyo Paradise Park, Seoul, Korea
두터운 잎 Project/ part of Thick Leaf Project
As time goes as humans love the city forest, the forest loses herself and morphs with our habit. Her power and beauty are destroyed by our impatient and insignificant acts. We think the forest will remain the same, but she loses her language every time we walk through her path. The beautiful path for us is a plastic wind for her.
- How do we express love?
사람이 도심의 숲을 사랑하는 시간이 흐를수록 작은 숲은 자신을 잃고 사람에 맞춰 변해간다. 숲은 그 자체로 힘이 있고 아름답지만, 사람이 만든 성급하고 작은 사건들에 무너져버린다. 숲은 계속 그대로일 거라고 생각하지만, 사람들이 한발자국 걸을 때마다 숲은 빠르게 숲의 언어를 잃어간다. 사람의 아름다운 산책길이 숲에게는 플라스틱 바람인 걸 모른다.
-사랑의 표현은 어떻게 해야 하나
CHOE Rayun is a visual artist who works closely with elements from everyday and nature. She is an active member of Mullae Art Village in Seoul. Site-specificity of Mullae informs her work and directs her attention to nature, human and urban, and their relationship to each other. With her thought provoking works, she offers a moment to share and an opportunity to contemplate. She works in diverse mediums such as painting, drawing, sculpture, video and performance.
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.
SEVEN IMAGES FROM THE SERIES 'ENDANGERED.'
Butternutbutternut creates art inspired by conscious living, a bright and quirky take on a utopia where animals and humans coexist in harmony. For this series, Endangered, I wanted to hero endangered species to bring awareness to the alarming reduction in population. When we think of tigers, rhinos, orangutans, the general understanding is that they exist, freely, in the wild, but the truth is that we are close to extinction, and they only exist in conservation areas. This series in meant to humanize these animals, hence they are shown on human bodies, and start the dialogue on what we can do to help them, whether through mindful tourism, conscious buying of goods and services or donations. Over continued years of illegal trade, poaching, deforestation, and climate change, we are responsible for this tragedy, and now we need mass awareness to help save these species.
Butternutbutternut was started in 2018 by Shinjini Sur, a self-taught artist. Shin's vision is to create art inspired by conscious living - bright, fun, and quirky pieces critiquing social norms. Her iconic work shows animals on human bodies to personify and humanize them, ultimately bringing to life a utopian world where humans and animals coexist in harmony. She is currently experimenting with new materials and home decor - check out butternutbutternut.com for more of her work. *20% of all proceeds from shopping this collection goes to the World Wildlife Fund in support of endangered, critically endangered, and vulnerable animals.*
To Aliens (all)
we fucked up
the planet that is
not by choice
well not by my choice
and not by a lot of people I know
it was sort of an accumulative fucking up
so you probably shouldn’t come back here
or visit for the first time right now
you should probably just wait
until this part of humanity is gone
because while we have fucked it up currently
i don’t have much hope that we’ll be around that much longer
to continue fucking it up
and after that you can come visit again
the things that come after us will probably be hotter anyways
To plant life (all),
you show what you heal
in your very makeup
the cellular structure of what you are
giving us a map to all that means to be alive
seen in valerian root
shaped like a nervous system
used to calm our nerves
and send us to sleep
seen in strawberries
cut in half
the picture of a human heart
used to heal our hearts
seen in St. John’s wort
bright yellow flowers
calling forth joy
used to heal depression
you show us and
sadly, only some of us see
Francine Cunningham is an award-winning Indigenous writer, artist and educator originally from Calgary, AB but who currently resides in Vancouver, BC. She is a graduate of the UBC Creative Writing MFA program, and a recent winner of The Indigenous Voices Award in the 2019 Unpublished Prose Category and of The Hnatyshyn Foundation’s REVEAL Indigenous Art Award. Her fiction has appeared in Grain Magazine as the 2018 Short Prose Award winner, on The Malahat Review’s Far Horizon’s Prose shortlist, Joyland Magazine, The Puritan Magazine, and more. Her debut book of poetry is titled ON/Me (Caitlin Press). You can find out more about her at www.francinecunningham.ca.
Watch Your Head is an online journal of creative works devoted to the climate crisis and climate justice.
New work is published monthly!
Check out our latest project: a print anthology published by Coach House Books!
Watch Your Head: Writers & Artists Respond to the Climate Crisis
Coach House Books
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