Fritz Haeg on the Animal Estates Project

Question: What is the Animal Estates Project?

Fritz Haeg: Animal Estate, I guess this really just starting just this month with the opening of the Whitney Biennial. I have been really interested in animals since I was quite young and spend entire summers at the zoo where I grew up in Minneapolis. So, I feel on some level I have been waiting for years and years and years to do something with animals or about animals. I think that is probably true of every ones work. I think your work really grow out of - really deeply fell work growth out of interest that are probably been with your whole life in some way, you have your whole life to constantly have this pour out of relevance thousand different ways. So, when I was invited to be a part of Whitney Biennial they just specifically invited me to do a project for the front of the museum, that entering the culture court. I was up in the woods in New Hamster doing a residency at McDonald colony at that time. Sitting in my cabin alone everyday and first getting really excited about the opportunity and then of course wondering right away like what the hell I am going to do. I think their first assumption was that I do some sort of garden project and of course that doesn’t make any sense in March in New York. Typically, when I am invited to do a project, I just go right away to what I am access with that moment and at that time it was just animals, I have been think lot about animals. Actually, on top of this I have been invited to do about 6 or 7 museum commissions this year, one after the other, which is part the reason I am traveling all year, just going from place to place doing these projects. So, it is a way to make sense of all these various invitations in to and start this new series of projects this year. I decided to make them all animal estate projects. So, basically there is 9 or 8 additions of animals estates that will be happening in difference city’s around the world, each one similar in a way to the model of edible estate, in that each one will be very responsive to the place that I am in. Even though in some cases I will have never been to that city, before I start work in the project. It is a very narrow research to go in to right away and find local experts, but basically the goal of the projects is to make homes for animals that have either been displaced in the city where I am working or our good go habitants for a humans in the city’s that I will be in. So for example, in New York at the Whitney Museum the real switch in that project where I began to understand it is when I found about this project call the Manhattan Project by Eric Anderson [phonetic]. He has been researching for ten years, the history of the island of Manhattan, 400 years ago when Europeans saddlers first arrived, what it looked like, developing a really clear picture of it, meaning exactly all the flora and fauna that were here. In each regions so it can tell you what times squares look like. Or in the case of the Whitney Museum and there was a stream and it was likely a side of Beavers in Beaver pond. So, with the Whitney Museum I decided to make homes for the twelve animals that use to live on the side of the museum 400 years ago. So in that way, I am making fully functioning homes for animals that will idealistically in some way welcome them back to a place that they have been kicked out of essentially. So, it is really anchored by devoured in the courtyard and then a large eagle snap stop in that entry part it go and then whole bunch of little homes rather animals.

 

Recorded On: 3/10/08

The project, Haeg says, comes from his long-postponed desire to work with animals.

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The surprise reason sleep-deprivation kills lies in the gut

New research establishes an unexpected connection.

Image source: Vaccaro et al, 2020/Harvard Medical School
Surprising Science
  • A study provides further confirmation that a prolonged lack of sleep can result in early mortality.
  • Surprisingly, the direct cause seems to be a buildup of Reactive Oxygen Species in the gut produced by sleeplessness.
  • When the buildup is neutralized, a normal lifespan is restored.

We don't have to tell you what it feels like when you don't get enough sleep. A night or two of that can be miserable; long-term sleeplessness is out-and-out debilitating. Though we know from personal experience that we need sleep — our cognitive, metabolic, cardiovascular, and immune functioning depend on it — a lack of it does more than just make you feel like you want to die. It can actually kill you, according to study of rats published in 1989. But why?

A new study answers that question, and in an unexpected way. It appears that the sleeplessness/death connection has nothing to do with the brain or nervous system as many have assumed — it happens in your gut. Equally amazing, the study's authors were able to reverse the ill effects with antioxidants.

The study, from researchers at Harvard Medical School (HMS), is published in the journal Cell.

An unexpected culprit

The new research examines the mechanisms at play in sleep-deprived fruit flies and in mice — long-term sleep-deprivation experiments with humans are considered ethically iffy.

What the scientists found is that death from sleep deprivation is always preceded by a buildup of Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) in the gut. These are not, as their name implies, living organisms. ROS are reactive molecules that are part of the immune system's response to invading microbes, and recent research suggests they're paradoxically key players in normal cell signal transduction and cell cycling as well. However, having an excess of ROS leads to oxidative stress, which is linked to "macromolecular damage and is implicated in various disease states such as atherosclerosis, diabetes, cancer, neurodegeneration, and aging." To prevent this, cellular defenses typically maintain a balance between ROS production and removal.

"We took an unbiased approach and searched throughout the body for indicators of damage from sleep deprivation," says senior study author Dragana Rogulja, admitting, "We were surprised to find it was the gut that plays a key role in causing death." The accumulation occurred in both sleep-deprived fruit flies and mice.

"Even more surprising," Rogulja recalls, "we found that premature death could be prevented. Each morning, we would all gather around to look at the flies, with disbelief to be honest. What we saw is that every time we could neutralize ROS in the gut, we could rescue the flies." Fruit flies given any of 11 antioxidant compounds — including melatonin, lipoic acid and NAD — that neutralize ROS buildups remained active and lived a normal length of time in spite of sleep deprivation. (The researchers note that these antioxidants did not extend the lifespans of non-sleep deprived control subjects.)

fly with thought bubble that says "What? I'm awake!"

Image source: Tomasz Klejdysz/Shutterstock/Big Think

The experiments

The study's tests were managed by co-first authors Alexandra Vaccaro and Yosef Kaplan Dor, both research fellows at HMS.

You may wonder how you compel a fruit fly to sleep, or for that matter, how you keep one awake. The researchers ascertained that fruit flies doze off in response to being shaken, and thus were the control subjects induced to snooze in their individual, warmed tubes. Each subject occupied its own 29 °C (84F) tube.

For their sleepless cohort, fruit flies were genetically manipulated to express a heat-sensitive protein in specific neurons. These neurons are known to suppress sleep, and did so — the fruit flies' activity levels, or lack thereof, were tracked using infrared beams.

Starting at Day 10 of sleep deprivation, fruit flies began dying, with all of them dead by Day 20. Control flies lived up to 40 days.

The scientists sought out markers that would indicate cell damage in their sleepless subjects. They saw no difference in brain tissue and elsewhere between the well-rested and sleep-deprived fruit flies, with the exception of one fruit fly.

However, in the guts of sleep-deprived fruit flies was a massive accumulation of ROS, which peaked around Day 10. Says Vaccaro, "We found that sleep-deprived flies were dying at the same pace, every time, and when we looked at markers of cell damage and death, the one tissue that really stood out was the gut." She adds, "I remember when we did the first experiment, you could immediately tell under the microscope that there was a striking difference. That almost never happens in lab research."

The experiments were repeated with mice who were gently kept awake for five days. Again, ROS built up over time in their small and large intestines but nowhere else.

As noted above, the administering of antioxidants alleviated the effect of the ROS buildup. In addition, flies that were modified to overproduce gut antioxidant enzymes were found to be immune to the damaging effects of sleep deprivation.

The research leaves some important questions unanswered. Says Kaplan Dor, "We still don't know why sleep loss causes ROS accumulation in the gut, and why this is lethal." He hypothesizes, "Sleep deprivation could directly affect the gut, but the trigger may also originate in the brain. Similarly, death could be due to damage in the gut or because high levels of ROS have systemic effects, or some combination of these."

The HMS researchers are now investigating the chemical pathways by which sleep-deprivation triggers the ROS buildup, and the means by which the ROS wreak cell havoc.

"We need to understand the biology of how sleep deprivation damages the body so that we can find ways to prevent this harm," says Rogulja.

Referring to the value of this study to humans, she notes,"So many of us are chronically sleep deprived. Even if we know staying up late every night is bad, we still do it. We believe we've identified a central issue that, when eliminated, allows for survival without sleep, at least in fruit flies."

Withdrawal symptoms from antidepressants can last over a year, new study finds

We must rethink the "chemical imbalance" theory of mental health.

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Four philosophers who realized they were completely wrong about things

Philosophers like to present their works as if everything before it was wrong. Sometimes, they even say they have ended the need for more philosophy. So, what happens when somebody realizes they were mistaken?

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Sometimes philosophers are wrong and admitting that you could be wrong is a big part of being a real philosopher. While most philosophers make minor adjustments to their arguments to correct for mistakes, others make large shifts in their thinking. Here, we have four philosophers who went back on what they said earlier in often radical ways. 

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Is there a limit to optimism when it comes to climate change?

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