Spaces Between: Fritz Haeg

Interview, 2018

Fritz Haeg‘s ︎︎︎ work has included animal architecture, crocheted rugs, domestic gatherings, edible gardens, educational environments, preserved foods, public dances, sculptural knitwear, temporary encampments, urban parades, wild landscapes, and occasionally buildings for people. He has variously taught in architecture, design, and fine art programs at Princeton University, California Institute of the Arts, Art Center College of Design, Parsons School of Design, the University of Southern California, and Wayne State University in Detroit. In late 2014, Haeg began a long-term project and new chapter of work with the purchase of the historic 1970’s commune ︎︎︎ Salmon Creek Farm on the Mendocino Coast.

L: I asked the Schoenherr family in Woodbury, MN about your ︎︎︎Edible Estates project and their time with you. They said you picked them out of about 100 open-call applicants and then from 10 narrowed-down families for the project. What made you choose them?

F: Yeah, so that was the last in a series of 15 projects for Edible Estates. We sent out an open call and had actually picked another family in an even more extreme suburban environment if you can imagine that. The Schoenherr family was actually our second choice. The first choice turned out to not be great. There was some issue where they couldn’t actually commit to sustaining the garden over time and they ended up bailing on the project. So we asked the Schoenherr family and they said yes, which was actually ideal because their residence ended up being better for the project.

L: I recently met with Sarah Schultz, formerly Curator of Public Practice and Director of Education at the Walker Art Center and now Executive Director of the American Craft Council. She said your 2013 Walker residency project ︎︎︎“At Home in the City” was the most beautiful thing she’s ever been a part of as a human being.

F: Aww, that’s great, ha ha, Sarah would say that. She’s such a great person. I’m glad to hear she’s doing well. She invited us to do a project at the Walker by open invitation and then it spent about a year in development. It was a very generous invitation and we came up with the interior garden and rug in the Walker and a wild foraging kind of garden out in the sculpture garden. Sarah was the perfect person to work with for that project. It was a big deal to me and I put everything into it.

L: Sarah sensed you were ready to transition to Salmon Creek Farm at the time.

F: It was such a crazy year. At Home in the City was very ambitious and felt like the result of a body of work I was developing for a decade — like it was done in a way. This was a real culmination. I made some closing remarks that alluded to the direction of Salmon Creek Farm, but I didn’t know exactly what it would be at the time.

L: From my experience of being in At Home in the City and what I know about your body of work, it feels like Salmon Creek Farm really is the result of everything else you’ve done. How did it develop and what is the lineage of the years getting that going and then taking on  ︎︎︎“Proposals for a Plaza” with Nils Norman at Museo Jumex in Mexico City this year?

F: I bought Salmon Creek Farm in 2014. It was something I was dreaming about for like 10 years. When I made the move to Mendocino, California I changed my email addresses and stopped all travel, talks, and projects. 2017 was a turning point where Salmon Creek Farm felt more stable. I was finally ready to do work again. Nils and I had never worked together, but I’ve known Nils for 20 years so I knew it would be great to work with him. I was very apprehensive, but it was a pleasure doing the project.

L: So many dogs at the plaza! I loved seeing videos on your Instagram of dogs running around and splashing in the pool of water.

F: Someone at the museum told me there was this woman who walked with her dogs there every day, so I asked her if I could record them. There were already so many people walking dogs in the area! It naturally became a place for them to hang out.

L: I heard you spent an entire summer at the zoo when you were young?

F: It was this program to go to the Minnesota Zoo every day. We were all supposed to pick animals to research and study — I picked people. I looked at people looking at the monkeys.

L: You’ve talked about Buckminster Fuller saying to keep things within the principles of nature, because those things would then be “within eternal truths.” I see this hopeful outlook in the work you’ve done, that there’s a future you strongly believe in and seem to see so clearly.

F: I got really into reading Buckminster Fuller and then I bought the geodesic dome in 1999 for my ︎︎︎ Sundown Schoolhouse project in Los Angeles. Reading his work was really influential on me. Yeah, crazy things in his work. He was thinking fundamentally and was a visionary about how to support people on this planet. I think in particular of a video where he’s talking to a group of Architecture students who are trying willfully and failing to make beautiful things, and how we as humans can just pay attention to those essential truths and guide our lives in some way by those.

L: ︎︎︎ The Sioux Chef will have a restaurant and education space in a new pavilion by the Stone Arch Bridge in Minneapolis soon. Sean Sherman of the Sioux Chef said, “We’ve cut out things that weren’t here before [Europeans came to America], so we’re not using any dairy, wheat flour, processed sugar, beef, pork, or chicken, and are just really being creative with proteins and plants and agriculture that was here before.” It reminds me of Edible Estates, which I think was visionary when you did it, and it seems like this practice is becoming more socially supported over time.

F: I started Edible Estates in 2004 or 2005 and it was catching a wave of broader mainstream interest of where our food comes from. That continues today but in these kinds of bifurcated spaces of expensive food or cheap, industrial, crappy food. I’m really interested in the space between.

L: It feels like Sioux Chef will be in that space between.

F: Yeah! I’ll make a note to check it out next time I’m in town.

L: And Salmon Creek Farm feels like that same space between things.

F: It’s definitely a fusion of many different things. It’s not a residency, school, farm, retreat center, or just my private home. It’s all those things combined and is intentionally not very public. Salmon Creek Farm is intended for artist and community friends to take a step back, with the idea that they return regularly. It’s still figuring itself out.