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Wherein Waters Rise, Drought Advances and Migration of Species Becomes Inevitable

October 23, 2018 to December 2, 2018


The Stanford Department of Art and Art History presents Wherein Waters Rise, Drought Advances and Migration of Species Becomes Inevitable. Artists Helen and Newton Harrison respond to climate change at three scales: The Bays at San Francisco, Green House Britain, and Peninsula Europe IV.

Helen and Newton Harrison, whose archives were recently acquired by Stanford University, have been addressing the changing climate and its powerful impacts on culture since the early 1970s. Their artwork is speculative in nature, but grounded in their collaborations with scientists, architects, engineers, and politicians. Three projects – at the scale of the city, island nation, and continent – are part of the Harrison’s view on the urgency of this moment. Their view that this dramatic shift will happen with or without our ecological intelligence and empathy is dire in its predictions, but ultimately optimistic in the proposition that we can assist in the reorganization of human activity at the scale of the problem, assisting the inevitable migration of species, including ourselves. With massive storm damage occurring globally and drought threatening migration at an unprecedented magnitude, this is a timely moment to mount this exhibition.

The Bays at San Francisco looks ahead to the 100-year horizon and imagines what the water rising, potentially as much as a meter or more, will do to the ecology and infrastructure of the regional watershed system as salt water begins to reclaim land up into the Central Valley. Green House Britain examines the near future as rising sea levels literally redraw the map of the Island of Britain. It poses crucial questions around choices to defend what exists or to withdraw to higher ground, while proposing new ways to think about what they call eco-civilty in the coming age of mass migration. Peninsula Europe IV considers the coming drought over the next several decades and potential impacts on the continent of Europe, challenging current ideas of border and culture, and offering new social, political and economic boundaries based alternative forms of land use.

Opening at the Coulter Gallery (in the McMurtry Building) on October 23, 2018. A reception with Newton Harrison in attendance will take place October 25 at 5 p.m.

About the Artists: Pioneers of the eco-art movement, Helen Mayer Harrison (who died on March 24, 2018) and Newton Harrison’s work has often involved co-collaborators such as biologists, ecologists, urban planners, and local citizens to support biodiversity and community development around the world. The Harrisons’ work explores the relationship between words and images through the use of maps, drawings, paintings, photomurals, and collages with a storytelling/performance component. Ecological concerns, survival, watershed restoration, urban renewal, agriculture, forestry, and other environmental issues have remained the focal point of their work over the decades. Their visionary projects have at times led to governmental policy changes, as well as creating and expanding dialogue between groups with diverging interests.

Image: San Francisco Bay Area, Google Maps

VISITOR INFORMATION: The Coulter Art Gallery is located in the McMurtry Building at 355 Roth Way, on Stanford’s campus. Visitor parking is free all day on the weekend and after 4pm on weekdays, except by the oval.

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