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SiteWorks: San Francisco performance 1969-85

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Helen and Newton Harrison, Sacramento Meditations: Meditations on the Sacramento River, the Delta and the Bays at San Francisco (1976-1977)

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Performance, Graffiti, Billboards, and Posters. Commissioned by the Floating Museum of San Francisco and exhibited first at the San Francisco Museum of Contemporary Art as part of a three-museum show that also included street posters, billboards and street graffiti. This was the first critique of the green revolution and intensive irrigated farming in art, linking the loss of bio-diversity to the green revolution and industrialized agriculture. It also advocated an early bio-regional approach to the Central Valley of California […]

Excerpts

(from VIII)

If The irrigated farm of the central valley is seen as a long term net loss and paradigmatic of the overall system of land division, sub-division, exploitation, consumption and transformation into profit Then The whole system can be seen as self-canceling Then Contradiction emerges between socio-economic paradigm (exploit, consume and transform into capital) biological imperative (survival of the species) and the laws of the conservation of energy (transfer of energy from one form to another always incurs a net loss […]

IX. On revaluing priorities

If Biological altruism (trading off the interest of the individual for the survival of the gene pool) is functional communal interest in terms of species survival and Congruence with the laws of conservation of energy is functional communal interest in terms of species survival Then In the interest of our species survival all resources would be held in trust as communal and used in congruence
with the laws of the conservation of energy Then Land and water would be passed on to succeeding generations intact, non renewable resources husbanded and renewable resources not depleted […]

The poster sketch contains 11 posters each beginning with “For instance…if…” and ending with “What if all that irrigated farming isn’t necessary?” that we posted with the help of San Francisco Art Institute students and others, on street corners throughout San Francisco. There were also two huge brown and blue billboards saying “Water.” In addition, there was street graffiti written on the sidewalks in chalk such as “Somebody’s crazy, they are draining the swamps and growing rice in the desert,” “Let every community empty its wastes upstream from where it takes its drinking water,” and “He who builds on a floodplain must expect to be visited by water.” There were performances which included the simultaneous but slightly offbeat readings of a four page bibliography called “Overload.” There was a videotape of a Water Board meeting as well as several radio spots, readings, and a series of bits of ‘advice’ to important water personnel stated in the personal columns of the local paper. Each bit of “advice” was derived from the Buddha’s eight fold path and applied to water. For instance,” Dear Ron Robie: Right Water Thought,” “Dear Jerry Brown: Right Water Action.” (The Harrison Studio 2013)

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