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Art, Activism, and the Environment: A Conversation

Monday, 7 May, 2018, 3-6 p.m.
Performance Space, Visual Arts Facility 306, UC San Diego

Can art change the world for the better, not just by enriching the life and spirit of those who love it, but by proposing new solutions for problems uncovered by science, engineering, and social critique?

Join us for an enlightening conversation on new alliances between art and science and explore new strategies to tackle social and environmental urgency. Moderated by Visual Arts Professor Teddy Cruz, the panel will feature the special guest Visual Arts Professor Emeritus Newton Harrison, in conversation with Scripps Research Meteorologist Alexander Gershunov and Visual Arts Assistant Professor Pinar Yoldas. Visual Arts Professor Emeritus Jerome Rothenberg will later join the panel and read one of his poems.

The panel will conclude with a reception honoring the collaborative work of Visual Arts Professors Emeritus Helen Mayer Harrison (b. 1927-2018) and Newton Harrison (b. 1932). Refreshments will be served.


Helen Mayer Harrison (1927-2018) and Newton Harrison (b. 1932) are among the earliest and the best known social and environmental artists. Often simply referred to as “The Harrisons”, Helen and Newton produced work across a vast range of disciplines. They worked in collaboration with biologists, ecologists, historians, activists, architects, urban planners and fellow artists to initiate dialogues and create works exploring biodiversity and community development. Helen and Newton Harrison are both Professors Emeriti at University of California, Santa Cruz, and University of California, San Diego. They have had numerous international solo exhibitions, and their work is in the collections of many public institutions, including the Pompidou Center, the Museum of Modern Art, the Nevada Museum of Art, and the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art. In 2013, the Harrisons became the first recipients of the Corlis Benefideo Award for Imaginative Cartography.

Teddy Cruz is recognized internationally for his urban and architectural research of the Tijuana-San Diego border, advancing border immigrant neighborhoods as sites of cultural production, from which to rethink urban policy, affordable housing and civic infrastructure. His investigation of this geography of conflict has inspired a practice and pedagogy that emerges from the particularities of this bicultural territory and the integration of theoretical research, pedagogy and design production. He is currently a Professor of Public Culture and Urbanism in the Visual Arts Department, and Director of Urban Research in the UCSD Center on Global Justice. With long-time research partner, UCSD political theorist, Fonna Forman, he is a principal in Estudio Teddy Cruz + Fonna Forman, a research-based political and architectural practice, based in San Diego.

Alexander (Sasha) Gershunov's research focuses on interrelated aspects of weather, climate and society. His professional interests include understanding the links between regional weather extremes and large-scale climate variability and change, long-range climate prediction, the atmospheric water cycle, precipitation and drought, heat waves, cold snaps, marine layer clouds, atmospheric rivers, Santa Ana winds, extreme weather and climate impacts on wildfire, energy, ecosystems, water resources and public health, climate influence on society and human influence on climate.

Pinar Yoldas is an infradisciplinary designer/artist/researcher. Her work develops within biological sciences and digital technologies through architectural installations, kinetic sculpture, sound, video and drawing with a focus on post-humanism, eco-nihilism, anthropocene and feminist technoscience. Her book An Ecosystem of Excess was published by ArgoBooks in 2014. Pinar is a 2015 John Simon Guggenheim Fellow in the Fine Arts and a 2016 FEAT Future Emerging Arts and Technologies Award recipient. She holds a bronze medal in organic chemistry in the national science olympics and had her first solo painting exhibition when she was five. Pinar joined the UC San Diego Visual Arts Department at the start of 2018.

Jerome Rothenberg received his BA in English from the City College of New York and his MA in English Language and Literature from the University of Michigan. A member of both the Visual Arts and Literature faculties, he served as Chair of the Visual Arts Department and as director of the Literature Department's creative writing program. Jerome Rothenberg is an internationally renowned poet, performance artist, critic and scholar, whose work reverberates well beyond the conventional and somewhat arbitary categories that have often proved useful to define academic disciplines.

The event is part of The Agency of Art exhibition programming. The program is in part underwritten by Muir College and Jacobs School of Engineering.