Concept artists Newton and Helen Mayer Harrison show a 350-foot visual narrative made from hand-colored photographs, maps and canto-like, hand-written prose. "The Lagoon Cycle," on view at the County Museum of Art through Dec. 27, was inspired almost a decade ago by the comments of a Sri Lankan man lamenting the encroachment of technology and Western ways into his deteriorating culture. "The Cycle" chronicles the Harrisons' 12-year involvement with Sri Lanka's endangered lagoon systems and with the equally beleaguered native crab that depends on the ecosystem for its survival and, in turn, provides food and trade for the natives.
Piqued by the man's comments, the Harrisons visited Sri Lanka, began researching the crab and its disappearing habitat and devised a plan for creating breeding tanks that might duplicate nature and prevent the crab's demise.
As they document their journey, a process piece unfolds: Its backbone is a dialogue between two fictitious personas, "the Witness" (Helen), embodying the protective faculty that discourages any intervention with the natural order, and "the Lagoonmaker" (Newton), representing the will to solve problems and make progress. Thus, devising an artificial but responsible habitat for the endangered crab becomes a metaphor for ethical intervention in the global ecology.