counterforce lab: about

counterforce lab is a research studio that harnesses the power of art and design to engage with the reality of the global ecological crisis and its ties to environmental injustice. counterforce lab is a collection of artists, designers, scientists, and thinkers working in transdisciplinary collaboration with community partners to engage in artmaking grounded in storytelling and place-based artistic fieldwork practices.

our use of art and design as vehicles for storytelling is central to our belief that mitigating the ecological crisis requires a fundamental shift in how we understand ourselves in relation to each other and our place in the natural world. counterforce lab was founded by ucla professor rebeca méndez and is a part of ucla’s design media arts department.

why the name counterforce lab?

the counterforce lab stands on the shoulders of several giants.

in 2012 the nevada museum of art asked rebeca méndez to design a book proposal for a monograph on the harrison studio, the collaborative team of artists helen mayer (1927-2018) and newton harrison, pioneers of the eco-art movement, who lead the force majeure center at uc santa cruz. in their fifty year career the harrisons have regarded the earth to be their only client. their works channel the agency of nature, and have influenced government policies worldwide.

“we define the force majeure as the pressure of global warming on all planetary systems, acting in collaboration with the industrial processes whose negative effects on the environment have more than co-equally accelerated over the past century. the center is founded on our belief that we as a species must adapt ourselves to a very different world, and that is the basis for the research that informs our artmaking. we define the type of problem that the center deals with as an ennobling problem, in the sense that the feedback from addressing issues at this scale confers benefits on the individuals involved, as well as on human culture and the planetary environment as a whole. in the present state, the center proceeds on our assertion that ecologically based, large-scale systems of adaptation to the extreme changes in the ever-warming environment are necessary for collective survival and so must be invented.”

the time of force majeure, after 45 years counterforce is on the horizon

in “a manifesto for the twenty-first century” they write:

we at the center believe counterforces can be found
first understanding then collaborating with
nature’s response to catastrophe
which when energies are available
recreates itself
recreating order and complexity
lowering entropy in living systems large and small

yes, counterforces can be found easily enough
harnessing them and co-creating with them
for the common good is the urgency at hands
so we at the center conclude
that counterforces are available
that can in some measures mitigate a possible 6th mass extinction
but unless created over the next 50 years or much less

informed and invigorated by the harrisons méndez formed the counterforce lab in 2015.