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Coming to the TEDx Stage: The Harrisons

Two leading pioneers of the eco-art movement

“Like an oncoming storm front, the Force Majeure is a fluid frontier, a frontier of heat moving across the planet, a frontier of water advancing on lands. It is a frontier from which we retreat, yet within which we must also adapt.”

— Newton and Helen Mayer Harrison

The HarrisonsThe Newton and Helen Mayer Harrison collaboration began with the peace movement in the early ’60s, followed by a mapping of endangered species for an exhibition they called “Fur and Feathers” at the Museum of Crafts in New York City. The collaboration continued as they collectively decided to pursue only work that benefitted the Earth — as historians, diplomats, ecologists, investigators, emissaries, art activists, and as a husband-and-wife team with a shared professorship.

Fast forward more than four decades, and these leading pioneers of the eco-art movement are preparing to speak at TEDxSantaCruz: Radical Collaboration. The title of their talk is “The Force Majeure Emerges. A Counterforce is On the Horizon.” They will join nearly two dozen other presenters at the April 24th event at the Rio Theatre.

The Harrisons are research professors at UC Santa Cruz and professors emeritus from UC San Diego. They’re principals of the Harrison Studio and co-directors of the Center for the Study of the Force Majeure at UC Santa Cruz.

Force majeure, a legal term to describe an unexpected and disruptive event, describes the core of their environmental mission, which is to bring together cutting edge art, science, and social analysis to develop innovative and effective tools that address climate issues.

“Where traditional and even interdisciplinary approaches often fall short,” they say, “the center looks to the intersection of art and science to generate provocative metaphors that help reframe the issues, and in doing so, often lead to inspired solutions to difficult problems.”

Climate change isn’t a new topic for the Harrisons, who first examined global environmental stresses and the resulting climate change in the mid-’70s. They went on to work on watershed restoration, urban renewal, agriculture and forestry issues, and urban ecologies, all the while expanding the dialogue around previously unexplored issues, helping to change government policy, and amassing a large body of literature on their work along with awards and exhibits throughout the U.S. and Europe.

Speakers Newton and Helen Mayer Harrison will join Dan Costa, Barry Sinervo, Christy Hutton, Matt Beaudreau,David Dennis, Bez Maxwell, Ed Reed, Bruce Damer, David Haussler, Barbara Rogoff, and Flora Lu, at this year’s TEDxSantaCruz. More speakers will be confirmed every week between now and mid-April.

Tickets for the all-day TEDxSantaCruz 2015: Radical Collaboration event are available online, and organizers advise people interested in attending to buy their tickets early. The 2015 theme is Radical Collaboration, and this fourth-annual local conference will take place from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. April 24 at the Rio Theatre, 1205 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz.