In places that are wild, we peer into the darkness and the dark looks back.
Night Watch is a site-responsive long-term installation for Empire of Dirt, located on the last occupied turn-off on a forestry road winding up a mountain near Creston, British Columbia, on the unceded traditional territory of the Yaqan Nukiy within the Ktunaxa Nations.
The area is home to a rich diversity of flora and fauna. Bear scat can be found on nearby game trails. After the sun sets, wolves and coyotes can be heard in the distance, yipping and howling. Mountain lions occasionally haunt the forest, along with elk, deer, moose, and other large mammals. Especially at night, from a human perspective it’s easy to feel the vulnerability of our delicate meat. We are not designed to roam the darkness – other creatures take the night watch.
Meaning “bright tapestry” in latin, the tapetum lucidum is a layer inside the eyes of many nocturnal animals, reflecting and bouncing light against the retina to amplify what they can see in the dark. Beams of light reflect from their pupils – glowing pinpricks in the darkness.
Often seen from headlights, animal eye-glow marks an intersection between humans and night creatures: we bring our artificial light into the natural darkness to see where we’re going, and sometimes we catch a glimpse of who’s watching us.
And while sometimes we are afraid, we shouldn’t be. Despite our soft pink meat, we’ve done far more damage to any night creature than they could ever do to us.
Night Watch was conceived and created while on a two week artist residency at Empire of Dirt in August 2021. With thanks to Marnie & Jim, the night critters, and the lands beneath.