Fritz Haeg works between his art, architecture and design practice Fritz Haeg Studio (though the currently preferred clients are animals), the happenings and gatherings of Sundown Salon (now Sundown Schoolhouse), the ecology initiatives of Gardenlab (including Edible Estates), and other various combinations of building, curating, dancing, designing, exhibiting, gardening, organizing, talking, teaching, and writing. His home base since 2001 is a geodesic dome in the hills of Los Angeles.
Question: What is suburbia?
Fritz Haeg: The Edible Estates project grew out of I guess a residency that I was doing in Australia for a month and half, after I have finished up these big projects in 2004. Went away with this idea that I would kind of think about where I wanted to go with my work, and this was immediately after the 2004 presidential elections red state, blue state. So of course I had coming out of that election, I had really strong feelings about the way it turned out, but even stronger feelings in general about this suppose at division within our country. I did feel and I continue to feel that the contemporary world of architecture design and art that I am part of is incredibly insular and it is focused in and itself obsess with this internal hermetic dialogue that really doesn’t welcome people into it. A lot of times you tend to feel like you are making work, for yourself or for other people withinyour own discipline that really excludes a larger discourse with the world that we are living in today and I just felt like after that election, like I cannot do that anymore, I am not interested in continuing that insular dialogue, like I wanted to make work. Well, after that election I really felt that I want to make work for everyone that address the way we are living today, so broad, mainstream, popular practice and I don’t know, I really had no idea to where to begin with something. I think my work with maybe already headed slightly in that direction, but that made be feel more strong about it, but the only thought I had when I came back from that trip was the desire to do something in the geographic centre of the country as a symbolic act. So that was it, that’s all I knew. It wasn’t about gardens or lawns or food anything like that, though I had been quite of obsessed with gardening previous to that and I had spent a lot of time since moving to LA working in gardens and specifically thinking a lot about predictive food gardens. So, edible estate grew out of that impulse to do something in middle of the country, which then I had been doing I think lecture in Kansas and accurate there they knew about this desire I had to do with thing in the centre and she was quiescently Q-rating a group show about food in Salina Kansas, which is pretty much the geographies centre of the country, which is also where this wonderful institution called the Land Institute happens be located, which is doing a lot of research on how to grow food in a way that’s more thoughtful to location where is being grown. So, for example in the prior you would grow a mixture of annuals and perennials. Anyway so, for some reasons showing up in Salina Kansas, I thought immediately about the front lawn and what wasted potential that’s space seem to be and I don’t know, I just had this immediate thought of what would happen if you grew food in your front lawn instead of grass and that lot to this idea of starting a serial project, a sequence of projects of prototype gardens around the country each one a models for its particular climate its geography. Understanding that, if you are going to grow a lawn its the same anywhere in the planet, but if growing to grow food, suddenly it is hyper local, its different from city-to-city and home-to-home. So, I felt like the only way you can really do the project just is was to do a whole series of them not only with each garden represent its particular region, but also that type of family, that type of house, now I am doing apartment buildings and hopefully as much diversity as possible within the series.
Question: What are the challenges of building these gardens?
Fritz Haeg: The challenges on the gardens have been different for each one, which is funny. I mean the whole plan of the project is to have as much diversity within the gardens as possible and no challenge did it has been the same an each garden as every time that a totally different one. So, in some cases its funding, because typically the gardens are commission by art institutions, but sometimes I will go ahead without that in couple together some of support. Yeah, it’s funny, because the parts of the project that are really smooth and easy in the parts within that are challenging really are totally different in each one. Sometimes its hard to get enough help, where as sometimes you have too much help, like in the garden coming up next we can ask them, we have over 100 volunteers that people that have just randomly emailed saying I want to help out in the garden. So, it’s going to be a challenge dealing with the volunteers over a weekend to make a garden. Sometimes it’s the neighbors in New Jersey that garden there was one neighbor on one side who hated it, and the neighbor on the other side who really loved it. Sometimes it’s the family, if there a little nervous going into it and become really stressed out the whole process. Even though once I have started the garden authority hopefully met with about 20 different families and selected a family who is most eager for the project and open to how much work it’s going to be...
Question: What is the desired outcome?
Fritz Haeg: I make the gardens and then whatever happens is part of the story. I don’t have, its not a particularly goal oriented project beyond the making of the garden, beyond that I am interested in what happens as a way of revealing in someway how we are living today. So, I think if you are to evaluate the project as it purely political environmental act, you could evaluate a pretty easily, the more people that would do it and the more successful those gardens are, you could evaluate the project has a success, but how do you evaluate as an art project, as project that’s commissioned by museums that’s shown in museums. How do you evaluate that and I think its an interesting thing that comes up with a lot of the work that I am doing how do you talk about it, how do you decide whether expense successful or not. I think my ultimate goal with the projects is to in someway reveal the world that we are living in, the world that we have created for ourselves and tell stories about that and reveal things that may not have been evident before. So, when you remove this lawn that was previously empty and polluting and taken for granted really and not really seen for what it is. You remove that and you plant food there, what happens in some cases it creates an entire community where there previously was none. For example, as a project in London that was the case I think. In some cases it response this of dialogue or debate that its surprisingly heated, or it surprising to me how much attention there has been on the gardens just from the press that there is an interest in talking about in and I think that conversation in and of itself is its the goal.
Recorded On: 3/10/08