Force Majeure synthesis 2009-present

A Manifesto for the 21st Century

We, of the Harrison Studio, believe
As do others, although differently
That a series of events have come into being
Beginning in the time of Gilgamesh and before
Beginning with agriculture and the first genetic manipulation
Beginning with culture of animals and ongoing genetic manipulation
Beginning with globalization six thousand years ago with the Salt Route
A little later, the Silk Route
And later and later…
Especially with science informed by Descartes’ clock
And with modernity recreating the cultural landscape
And deconstructing nature thereby
From the Industrial Revolution to the present
Until all at once a new force has become apparent
We reframe a legal meaning ecologically
And name it the Force Majeure
We, of the Harrison Studio assert
As do others somewhat differently
That the Force Majeure, framed ecologically
Enacts in physical terms outcomes on the ground
Everything we have created in the global landscape
Bringing together the conditions that have accelerated global warming
Acting in concert
With the massive industrial processes of extraction, production and consumption
That have subtracted forests and depleted top soil
Profoundly reduced ocean productivity
While creating a vast chemical outpouring into the atmosphere
Onto the lands and within the waters
That altogether comprise this Force Majeure

(for full text see Manifesto)


Images reflecting Force Majeure Work

From Peninsula Europe Part III

Imagine the research is right                                  How will the twenty republics
drought moves across Europe                                 six kingdoms and one duchy
the temperature continues to rise                          that are the European Union
glacial melt continues accelerating                        surrender enough autonomy
river flow becomes intermittent                             surrender closely held powers
flooding increases from sudden rains                   to create collectively
The half-million square kilometers                       the new form of governance
of mostly monocultural high ground forest         that is able to contend with
succumbs in the main to drought and disease    a force majeure of this magnitude


From Peninsula Europe Part III

The Harrison Studio Experiment

 The decision is taken to reject the Alpine treeline definition of the high ground, instead locating where rivers begin to define the high ground, discovering that rivers begin mostly at 1200 feet and above. Lifting the shape off of the map, we discover an area of 1.46 million sq km at the 1200 feet level­ that, if rehabilitated according to the concept of the upward movement of species, will dramatically reduce the impact of the predicted temperature rise, flood and drought. We suggest a water tax to fund work on the ground.


From Peninsula Europe Part III

The prediction of drought moving from Portugal to mid Germany and beyond has the following associated consequences:

1)    One third of 2.3 million sq km of farming becomes minimally productive.

2)    1/3 of 340 thousand sq km of meadowlands become minimally productive.

3)    Most of the 560,000 sq km of high ground forest succumbs to insect disease, drought and fire.

4)    The waters will rise, affecting coastal cities and infrastructure; people will need to move upward.

5)    The outcome to civil society if business as usual practice continues is unfortunate in the extreme. We predict food rationing at best. At the worst, perturbation and collapse of society as we know it.

Tibet is the High Ground: Part III, 2009- A Force Majeure work
An Ecologically Based Proposal for the Tibetan Plateau (or Qingzang Plateau)

Research indicates on the Tibetan Plateau     the paleoecological research
glaciers will shrink so much                               in order to locate forest
That their melting borders will dry up            And Savannah ecosystems
Profoundly affecting                                            Which existed in Eemian Interglacial period
The Salween, MeKong, Huang-Ho                   When temperatures were
Brahmaputra, Yangtze, Ganges                         Similar to those predicted in the near future
And Indus River systems                                    And thereafter
That traverse inner Mongolia,                           to search to locate local similar
China, Tibet, Autonomous-zone India             ecosystems that Exist in our now
Burma, Laos, Cambodia, South Vietnam,       And to begin designing and in part
Bangladesh, Kashmir and Pakistan                  Creating the process to Assist the
A Force Majeure has come into being              Migration of a palette of species
In the form of global warming                           Able to replace or restate
That will work to the disadvantage                   Those now coming under Extreme stress
Of 1/16th of the earth’s population                    Thereby Generating new forest
Or about 1.2 billion people                                 And grassland
Who live in the 7 drain Basins                           which will in good part replace
That comprise over                                               The slow water releasing
2.4 million square miles                                      Properties of glaciers
and snowmelt by in part creating
Thus we make an unlikely proposal                  a 2 million square kilometer sponge

From Sierra Nevada: An Adaptation (installation)- A Force Majeure work

Installation Ronald Feldman Gallery, in collaboration with the Nevada Museum of Art. A 44 foot long floor work basically done with hi resolution satellite photography, the floor piece accompanied by 16 watershed drawings of the major watersheds coming from the ridgelines all together give the viewer the sense of the magnitude of the range of the Sierra Nevada.  It takes approximately seven 6 foot paces to traverse the work in the gallery creating a metaphor for walking the Sierras. The detail is such that people can on their hands and knees find places they have been and become aware of the vast logging operations.



Sierra Nevada Project Definition: A Draft Experimental Design

The Project is designed to field test in a formal research setting core concepts that the Harrison Studio has been working with for the past 35 years. The Project will be designed to answer the following question: Are there ecologically available responses that will, in good part, replace the value once provided by disappearing glaciers and snow pack to river systems and the human and ecological cultures they support?

The methodology to find an initial set of probable answers to these and related questions at a manageable scale will include:

1. Establishing a transect from the highest useful point in the Sagehen watershed, dropping 2,300 ft. about a 5.5-mile span to the outfall of the Sagehen Creek into Stampede Reservoir. The transect (see modified Google map and topo drawing) is designed to touch all major ecotomes: meadow, riverine, forest types and shrublands.

2. We estimate (subject to precise evaluation on the ground) that approximately 20 or more site variations will be found over the approximately 5-mile transect.

3. On each site we identify, we will place two framing elements, either rope, wood or found materials on the ground. The shapes will enclose a total area the size of a football field, although shaped according to the nature of the site.

4. We will leave one tract alone as a control. We will use the other as a test site for an aspect of the yet to be determined species palette. The species palette will be designed to accept warming, intermittent heavy rains and drought. It will be continually reevaluated over the research period for its capability to hold back erosion, enhance topsoil and to function in a fire-tolerant manner, above all, the intention is that such a palette will enhance the sponge dynamics in the earth in such a way that the earths, as far as possible, will hold and release the waters, once supplied by snow pack and glacial melt, to river and stream.

5. As the artist lead, the Harrison Studio has received research monies to enable funding the team of scientists to begin this work.

6. As the experiment begins to take place, we will establish on the 5-mile path through the site, an ongoing changing narrative, informed in good part by that which is discovered.

7.  The work as a whole will function as a complex hybrid form consisting of; a work of art, scientific experiment, a bio-regional proposal and an educational program. The physical work on the ground will have a strong presence and be associated with a lucid poetic narrative designed to evolve in response to new information. In addition to providing creative and educational connections with the museum and the community at large, it will also serve to train students.


From Sierra Nevada: An Adaptation: The Sagehen Watershed

Trajectory of 20 double blind sites that will be used to test the concept and potentially value of designing species palettes that will respond favorably to the flood and drought expected in the high grounds as a result of rapid (forced) global warming. Species groupings will be selected to favor fire resistance, biodiversity, drought tolerance and the ability to sequester waters.


From Sierra Nevada: An Adaptation

Topographic Map: Sagehen Creek Watershed


Center for the Force Majeure

The Center for the Force Majeure Studies established on

the University California Santa Cruz campus has four primary missions.

1)   Botanical explorations and experimentations that will assist the migration of species upward to compensate for species loss, flood and drought due to accelerated global warming in the high grounds particularly mountain areas. The Center will be examining the possibility of generating ecosystemic design directed toward adaptation at great scale

2)   The center expects to develop experimentation towards these ends working with the personnel at the University of California Berkeley research station located in the 8000 acre Sagehen Watershed.

3)   Generating a Paleobotanical Library with special emphasis placed on utilizing information gained from the Eemian period in paleohistory approximately 115,000-130,000 years ago when the temperatures and weather conditions were similar to those predicted within the next 50-100 years particularly in the Sierra Nevada

4)   A parallel form emerging as an activity of the center are ecological game structures based on the concepts embedded in or flowing from the ecological definition of the Force Majeure. The Center will be utilizing the resources of the University, which is one of the four principal academic game generating institutions in the US.

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Sierra Nevada: An Adaptation

In collaboration with the Center for Art + Environment at the Nevada Museum of Art

February 10 – March 26

… ‘Greenhouse Britain’ [by the Harrisons] recapitulates the convergence of the aesthetic and the ethical, best described by Heidegger when he writes, ‘The first step to vigilance is the step back from the thinking that merely represents…to the thinking that responds and recalls.’
- Amanda Boetzkes, The Ethics of Earth Art, 2010

Helen Mayer Harrison and Newton Harrison, pioneers of ecologically-oriented art whose proposals have often influenced long-term public policy planning, will exhibit a multi-media installation that addresses the effects of global warming on one of the world’s great mountain chains covering 28,000 square miles. The project, Sierra Nevada: An Adaptation, is commissioned by the Center for Art + Environment (CA+E) at the Nevada Museum of Art whose fifty-year commitment to the evolution of the work is unprecedented. This latest project is part of Force Majeure, a series that has evolved over the last five years in which the Harrisons propose ecological adaptation on a large-scale.

The exhibition features a forty-foot aerial image enhanced with drawing and text that rests on the floor, allowing the viewer to “walk” the mountain range. Wall panels of watershed maps and photographs express current and future ecosystems visually; text panels include narrative and Socratic questioning to encourage public discourse. Two animated projections contemplate contrasting futures over the next fifty years: a landscape that has been overgrazed and overcut with minimum intervention versus assisted migration of beneficial species with the object to regenerate top soil. The Harrisons place themselves on the side of the debate within the reclamation/restoration world that calls for human intervention, albeit not in all cases, rather than allowing nature to run its course.

The exhibition at the Feldman Gallery is the premiere showing of Sierra Nevada: An Adaptation, which will travel to the Nevada Museum of Art’s Art + Environment Conference in September 2011. New materials will be developed for a larger exhibition at the Museum in several years, and all project materials are being collected by the CA+E for its archives. The Nevada-based Desert Research Institute (DRI) has generated imagery for much of the mapwork.


Helen Mayer Harrison and Newton Harrison, Professors Emeriti at the University of California at San Diego and currently research professors at University of California at Santa Cruz, have been represented by the Feldman Gallery since 1974 when their early works addressing global warming were shown. A major exhibition, Greenhouse Britain and the Force Majeure, was mounted by The Kala Art Institute in Berkeley in 2010; they were awarded the prestigious 2010 CIWEM (The Chartered Institution of Water & Environment Management) prize. The Harrisons will deliver the convocation address, On Tibet, Peninsula Europe, and the Sierra Nevada: Adaptation at Scale, at the College Art Association Annual Conference on Wednesday, February 9, from 5:30-7PM in the East Ballroom, 3rd Floor, of the Hilton New York. The event is free and open to the public.


Opening Reception: Thursday, February 10, 5- 8PM. From 5-6PM, there will be a preview and reception announcing the Nevada Museum of Art’s 2011 Art + Environment Conference speakers and program. Gallery hours: Tuesday through Saturday, 10-6. Monday by appointment. For information about the exhibition, contact Sarah Paulson at (212) 226-3232 or



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Helen Mayer Harrison and Newton Harrison will exhibition a large-scale multimedia video installation, Greenhouse Britain, and other early works that relate to global warming.

The Rising of Waters
The Warming of Lands
The Upward Movement of People

January 10 – February 7, 2009
at Ronald Feldman Gallery, NYC

There is a gentle beauty in their work, and much charisma in the otherworldly maps and text panels that are poetic and personal rather than dryly official. The exhibition is, of course, a call to action, but it is foremost a lyrical meditation on what ecological disaster and collective recovery might one day look like.
-Elizabeth Mahoney, The Guardian, 2008

Helen Mayer Harrison and Newton Harrison will exhibition a large-scale multimedia video installation, Greenhouse Britain, and other early works that relate to global warming. Environmental artists who have collaborated since 1971, the Harrisons are internationally recognized for producing visionary works and their epic projects have influenced long-term policy planning. Greenhouse Britain, a commissioned and collaborative project, and was exhibited in multiple venues in 2007 – 2008.

A commissioned and collaborative project, Greenhouse Britain sets forth a vast amount of information that is taken for granted — the future rising of the waters and the warming of the lands — and offers radical new living forms for the upward displacement of large populations. Part One features a large topographical floor model of the British Isles on which projected images dramatically show the rising waters and redrawn coastline. A haunting soundtrack of three voices fills the space, posing Socratic questions and offering solutions.

Wall works include large murals consisting of maps, with visual metaphors that define and unify geographical areas, and text. Part Two (in collaboration with the Land Planning Group at Sheffield University) proposes a Pennine settlement organized around water tributaries and small-scale sustainable farming. Part Three presents a film showing the city of Bristol underwater and its subsequent salvation. Part Four (in collaboration with APG architects) reverses the development in the Lea Valley, replacing identical new housing with solar-heated apartments on stilts with hanging gardens, with a proposal to reforest farm and meadow lands that will insure the air quality, regional biodiversity, and enhance the water supplies of London.

Part Five is a model (made in collaboration with ATOPIA) of The Vertical Promenade, a centerpiece for a 10-12,000 person vertical village structure which, as a metaphor, is the difference between development and settlement, taking properties of an urban main street and shifting them into a vertical experience. Its inhabitants can meander, replacing the alienation that exists in normal high-rise buildings by becoming the stage for community activities.

Early global warming works relate to Tibet, Pennisula Europe, the Lagoon Cycle from 1974, and an update on the Sacramental River thirty years later.

Greenhouse Britain ( has been produced as an artist-led project by Helen Mayer Harrison and Newton Harrison and principles of the Harrison Studio and Associates (Britain) in collaboration with Tyndall Climate Center, Great Britain, designed by Westergaard & Harrison, and funded by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Helen Mayer Harrison and Newton Harrison are Professors Emeritus from the University of California San Diego
Reception: January 10, 6-8pm. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 10am-6pm. Monday by appointment. For information about the exhibition, contact Sarah Paulson at (212) 226-3232 or

Please visit the Greenhouse Britain website and the web exhibition here:

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