Event will paint a more positive future for the world

A husband and wife duo who have made a unique contribution to public understanding of climate change by focusing on art and creativity are to visit Robert Gordon University next week to deliver a one-off public lecture.

Ecology artists Professors Helen Mayer and Newton Harrison are to give a talk, entitled ‘Patch Thinking and the Force Majure', at the University's Faculty of Health and Social Care Building at 1pm on Tuesday 18 May. Funded by Robert Gordon's new research institute for Innovation, Design and Sustainability (IDEAS), which is to be launched by cybernetics expert Professor Kevin Warwick this week, the lecture will give an insight into how artists can help to solve global issues.

The Harrisons, as they are known, who are based in Santa Cruz, USA, have been working on major ecology projects across the world for 40 years. Frequently commissioned by governments, planning and environmental agencies to analyse and revise eco-systems, they are also recognised for their ability to open up radical lines of thought in response to the issues they look at.

In 2008 they completed Greenhouse Britain, funded by the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), tracing the implications of sea level rise around the coast of Britain. The installation they created as part of this project brings together sculpture, graphics, audio and video to propose an alternative narrative about how people might withdraw from their homes and towns as waters rise. The works they create are designed to make clear, albeit in a very straightforward way, that impending ecological crises will affect us and that we should be thinking now rather than later about how we deal with such major issues.

As artists and researchers, the Harrisons set the context to deal with complex environmental and ecological issues and this month they are also visiting the UK to collect an Arts and Environmental Award 2010 from the Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM). This accolade is to be bestowed in recognition of their ability to build bridges between art and science.

Professor Anne Douglas, who coordinates the On the Edge Research programme at Robert Gordon University, has worked with the Harrisons on previous projects. She is coordinating next week's lecture and says: "This is an outstanding opportunity for us to involve some of the world's leading thinkers in our own innovative research. In addition to the public lecture, the Harrisons will be supporting a seminar by Reiko Goto, an ecology artist based at the University who is presenting on empathy in relation to trees and tree planting in Aberdeen."

To sign up for the event, contact Anne on 01224 263647 or email For more information about the speakers, visit