The approach we take to understanding, whether framed as 'measured, objective and in control' or 'entangled and adapting', is key to the health of the life web and ourselves. The problems associated with the measured, objective and in control version of this, have been identified by artists, philosophers and thinkers including Goethe, Steiner, Klee and Bateson over a long period and came to much wider recognition from the 1970s, with for example the Club of Rome's Limits to Growth. Artists create ways of imagining the world that inspire us to feel as well as think. Helen Mayer Harrison and Newton Harrison, known as 'the Harrisons', do so through an ecological approach, as evidenced in their works, including The Serpentine Lattice on which this essay draws in particular. Grounded in literary movements such as ethnopoetics and pictorial devices including figure-ground reversal, the Harrisons present us with a fundamentally different way of knowing the world. But where the environmental humanities have tended to reject outright ways of knowing associated with positivism, let alone financialisation of ecosystems, we find quantitative and financial proposals in the works of the Harrisons shaped to provoke us to redirect human institutions to address the health of the life web first and foremost.
FREMANTLE, C. and DOUGLAS, A. 2021. Foregrounding ecosystems: thinking with the work of Helen Mayer Harrison and Newton Harrison. In Villanueva-Romero, D., Kerslake, L. and Flys-Junquera, C. (eds.) Imaginative ecologies: inspiring change through the humanities. Nature, culture and literature, 17. Netherlands: Brill [online], chapter 5, pages 81-106. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1163/9789004501270_007