Fritz Haeg: "We are arriving at a point in Western civilization where things that used to be drudgery are now done for pleasure"

Fritz Haeg

Fritz Haeg

Thursday night marks the opening of the new Fritz Haeg exhibit with a celebration of locally grown food and activities such as canning and knitting. There are two things to see at the Walker Art Center. Foraging Circle opened in June in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, and includes perennials with domestic uses housed under a geodesic dome. Meanwhile, the Medtronic Gallery offers an installation featuring a giant, crocheted rug as its centerpiece.


The 27-foot rug, which Haeg has been working on during various residencies at institutions around the world, is made from discarded materials. On top of it sits an assemblage of objects that are both symbolic of domestic crafts and the product of domestic activities, such as jars full of home-grown canned foods, herbs and flowers taken from the Foraging Circle, an olden days spool, and a tea setting centerpiece. 

At the back of the gallery is a large map, which will have pins for all of the domestic and community gardens around the city. Additionally, the installation includes an archive of locally grown and made products and food, and a bulletin board highlighting community-oriented food organizations and events. 

Haeg says the project emerged when he moved to Los Angeles and became obsessed with gardening. Like much of his work, it was something that at first seemed like a hobby, but eventually became the main thrust of his art. Haeg did a bit of research to learn the crafts of canning, knitting, and other domestic activities, but mostly he just figured it out on his own.


Historically, these crafts have been generally thought of as "feminine" activity, and that has to do with what we think of as important and not important, Haeg says. "Important" artworks, the pieces that are cherished and valued by museums, tend to be monumental, masculine- sculptures that dominate a room. Traditionally "feminine" notions of tending and cultivating -- of things that are less permanent and held onto lightly -- are less valued.  

Of course, even thinking about things as masculine or feminine is starting to be outdated, Haeg says. Today, gender lines are blurring, and the idea that everyone encompasses a bit of both the male and female side is getting more of a general acceptance. 

Engaging in domestic crafts, whether it's growing and producing your own food, sewing your own clothes, or any other kind of home-made crafts, is less about gender and more about choice. For Haeg, he's interested in the pleasure of the experience; the physical, tactile connection to the materials.

"We are arriving at a point in Western civilization where things that used to be drudgery are now done for pleasure," says Haeg. At the same time, food that is grown without pesticides can be much more expensive than the mass-produced processed items available at grocery stores. 

Part of Haeg's residency at the Walker included Edible Estate #15, an organic, edible garden at a home in Woodbury. While the artist has designed similar gardens at homes in other cities, in the past he's focused on urban areas. For Minnesota, Haeg wanted to work with a home that was in the suburbs, partly because that's where he grew up (he's from Hopkins). Also, front lawns tend to be such a huge part of suburban landscape. The front lawn symbolizes the American Dream, and to unravel that, questions the American Dream itself, he says. 

Opening night activities include a presentation of breads and preserves at the Foraging Circle in the Sculpture Garden at 6 p.m., followed by a presentation of a video about Edible Estate #15 at 7 p.m. at Walker Cinema. At 8 p.m., there will be teas on the Domestic Integrities rug in Medtronic Gallery. 

Thursday evening also includes a performance by BodyCartography Project, who will be supporting Haeg's work through their unique style of movement.


"Fritz Haeg: At Home in the City"

Walker Art Center

Through November 24

Free opening reception 5-9 p.m. Thursday, August 8