Inconsistency and contradiction: lessons in improvisation in the work of Helen Mayer Harrison and Newton Harrison.
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DOUGLAS, A. and FREMANTLE, C. 2016. Inconsistency and contradiction: lessons in improvisation in the work of Helen Mayer Harrison and Newton Harrison. In Brady, J. (ed.) Elemental: an arts and ecology reader. Manchester: Gaia Project Press.
The aim of this essay is to draw out the learning from the authors' analysis of the practice of Helen Mayer Harrison and Newton Harrison, collectively known as 'the Harrisons'. The Harrisons are widely acknowledged as eminent ecological artists whose work addresses watersheds, forestry, forms of farming, urban development, sea level rise and climate change over a career spanning five decades and encompassing projects on several continents. Artists, particularly those who are willing to speak to their practice in reflective and reflexive ways, provide lessons for other practitioners and perhaps for other disciplines, but they do not provide models exactly. The Harrisons are particularly interested in the possibility of their methods being taken up by other practitioners and disciplines. They call this 'conversational drift'. Dialogue and discourse will recur through this essay, but it is worth noting that 'drift' is often used as a translation of the Situationists' word 'dérive', an unplanned or improvised exploration of the city. It is in this sense that the Harrisons understand the process of lessons being learnt and the potential for lessons to be relevant in other contexts.