Digital Arts and New Media: MFA: Collaboration, Innovation, Social Impact

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the force majeure (winter - fall 2014)

Newton Harrison, Helen Mayer Harrison 

The Harrison Studio


The work of the Harrison Studio over the past 4 years has been to address and create works of art, scientific experiments, speculations and exhibitions that focus on a concept that we call “the Force Majeure”. A synthesis of the work in general can be found at


The project work, the single class we teach at UC Santa Cruz over 3 quarters, has several intentions. They assume that the student comes to the project group with some background in Ecology and with the expectation of using ecological subject matter in their art making, at least in the project group. The first and foremost intention in the course is for those in the group to actively develop themselves as artists. Moreover, we expect the incoming student to involve him or herself in the Harrison Studio process and work. In the first quarter we will present 10 works at various scales done over 40 years over several class periods. The object is to open the career to observation, criticism and as a model.


The Harrison Studio process, all three quarters, is relatively open-ended. There will be two directions pursued. The first is the experimentation at Sagehen described in the Force Majeure document and other emergent works such as the transformation of the Bays at San Francisco. The reason for doing this is to develop the experimentation on the ground that will lead toward the evidence necessary to take on such vast problems as adaptation at scale; Tibet or the peninsula of Europe and, at smaller scale, the Bays at San Francisco as exemplar.


The second direction is a new emergent subject matter that is the result of involvement with the gaming group at UC Santa Cruz. The idea is for the Center for the Study of the Force Majeure to have as part of its work the development of ecological game structures; some educational, some problem solving, some fantastical. Unlike the main body of the Force Majeure, this subject matter is in the very beginning of its development.


Although in all cases environmental justice is an issue, the Harrison Studio is primarily about artmaking and expanding the boundaries of Art and has been so for over 40 years. From an educational perspective, we see the students as young colleagues.


Image Credit: Matthew Jaimeson