What is theoretical research? A perplexing read.

Read this passage from “Two Lines of Sight and An Unexpected Connection: The Art of Helen Mayer Harrison and Newton Harrison” by Arlene Raven (published in High Performance magazine, Winter 1987). Maybe you won’t find it confusing, maybe:

The work of Helen Mayer Harrison and Newton Harrison [pictured here] consists of deceptively simple solutions to complex ecological problems. Their process is embedded in layers of discourse, poetry, science, politics and passionate concern for human life. Here art historian Arlene Raven, a long-time contributing editor to High Performance, delves into the collective mind of the Harrisons, one layer at a time. —Eds. …

Our 1973 Sea Grant crabs laid out experimental grounds [for the development of a commercial aquaculture system for the crab]. Our method is available and can be used. We believe in theoretical research. Although our work points in theoretical directions we haven’t engaged in theoretical research,

the tank is part of an experiment
and the experiment is a metaphor for a lagoon
if the metaphor works
the experiment will succeed
and the crabs will flourish
after all
this metaphor is only a representation
based on observing a crab in a lagoon
and listening to stones.

(Thanks to investigator Ben Tobler for bringing this to our attention.)