Artists assess the effects of climate change.
In a project that will likely extend beyond the end of their lives, artists Newton and Helen Mayer Harrison’s “Sagehen: A Proving Ground” brings art and science together at the Sagehen Creek Field Station near Truckee. The project is funded by the Annenberg Foundation with Big Pine’s Metabolic Studio.
“Sagehen” is based on the likelihood of a global temperature rise due to climate change, and hypothesizes which species will be equipped to survive it. Based in the Sagehen watershed, the project encompasses a series of fifteen plots at five different altitudes, each 500 feet above the last. Eleven different species native to the watershed were planted at each altitude, ranging from 6,000 to 8,000 feet, and surrounded by deer fences. Each year, caretakers will record the progress of the eleven species. The project is now in its second year.
“Since so much damage has been done, the weather [is] going to change very quickly,” Newton Harrison told The Sheet. “It didn’t look like the upward movement of species [in elevation] would happen as quick as the great loss of species that was going to happen” with a drastic change in temperature. So the Harrisons, along with partnering scientists, decided to set up a controlled artistic experiment to explore the possibilties. “As artists, we’re not scientists,” Harrison said, “but we’re literate and entirely capable of designing experiments.”