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How big is there? How long is now? Readings from selected texts by Helen Mayer Harrison and Newton Harrison. Performed on 30 March 2019, UNFIX festival, Glasgow.


Anne Douglas

Helen Mayer Harrison


Readings from selected poetic texts by Helen Mayer Harrison (1927-2018) and Newton Harrison (b. 1932), known as 'the Harrisons,' at UNFIX Festival Glasgow on 30 March 2019.
Chris Fremantle and Anne Douglas read six excerpts selected to highlight the Harrisons' articulation of their collaboration and their evolving understanding of ecology. This included (in order) a description of making earth from 1970; two excerpts from The Lagoon Cycle (1985); the opening section from The Serpentine Lattice (1993); a shortened version of the central text of Greenhouse Britain: Losing Ground, Gaining Wisdom (2008); and from On The Deep Wealth of this Nation, Scotland (2018).We introduced each piece briefly to provide a context and draw out themes, connections to previous texts and current relevance. Each text was supported by projections of one or two images from the works. The performance concluded with a recording of Helen Mayer Harrison reading from The Seventh Lagoon (1985), a piece she read regularly at their own performances. The Harrisons were friends with several key couples at the heart of the ethnopoetics movement in California in the 60s and 70s including Jerome Rothenberg. This movement focused on the importance of the performance of poetry, primarily in understanding oral traditions. The Harrisons' echo this when they say, "Poetry comes from the long oral tradition that is most evocative when designed to be spoken or read aloud." (Harrison & Harrison 2007). In another text they say, "The idea was to present a vision that would explode in the mind of the interested person. The aesthetic discipline was to find the linguistic means to do it. The work is a chant and was made to be read aloud." (Harrison and Harrison 2001). The work of the Harrisons is widely interpreted within the visual art tradition, particularly in relation to enviromental art. It has been included in most major exhibitions of environmental and ecological art and discussed by critics and theorists, but the literary and poetic aspect has been less attended to, and the effectiveness of the work as poetry, able to be spoken, let alone performed by others not particularly considered at all.


How big is there? How long is now? Readings from selected texts by Helen Mayer Harrison and Newton Harrison. Performed 30 March 2019, UNFIX festival, Glasgow.

Exhibition Performance Type Performance
Start Date Mar 30, 2019
Deposit Date May 30, 2019
Publicly Available Date May 30, 2019
Keywords The Harrisons; Ecology; Ecological art; Nature; Contemporary art
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