Born 1969 in Saint Cloud, Minnesota; lives in Los Angeles, California
Fritz Haeg applies his skills as an architect to diverse artistic and curatorial practices that include designing houses, leading a peripatetic educational center, facilitating grassroots political activism, and experimenting in radical gardening. Rejecting categorization and specialization, Haeg is attracted to multidisciplinary projects that manifest as social opportunities, benevolent gestures, or inspirational models. Like fellow artist/designer Joep van Lieshout, Haeg takes a collective approach to his work, viewing its outcomes as organic culminations of multiple individual inputs rather than the result of directorial cues. His philosophical disinterest in materialism and the manufacturing of goods, however, more closely recall Buckminster Fuller’s practical approach to architecture. Haeg’s projects may also be seen as an extension of Ant Farm’s performance-based, often nomadic interpretations of architect R. M. Schindler’s notion of a modern dwelling as a flexible setting for harmonious living.
Haeg’s practices have recently focused on two main programs, one that reclaims private property as a site for activism, the second occurring in the public arena as community outreach. Sundown Schoolhouse is a continuation of his Sundown Salons, which began in 2001 as gatherings for knitting, reading literature, dancing, wrestling, drawing, or conversing on a given topic. Following a more politically active mission, the Schoolhouse empowers individuals in the private realm by disseminating radical information through social engagement. Classes are often based in Haeg’s home, a geodesic dome perched on a Los Angeles hillside, though they have been hosted by art institutions across the country and abroad. After yoga and a wholesome breakfast, the 12-hour days feature guest lecturer–led discussions on matters from the practical—how to navigate the LA mass transit system—to loftier personal strategies such as ecstatic resistance and creating personal manifestos.
Spearheaded by Haeg, Edible Estates (2005– ) is a horticultural experiment that transforms suburban front lawns into plots teeming with edible plants. Though the “reclaimed” land is private property, local volunteers create each garden, and the results can be appreciated by the entire community. The Estates are reminiscent of World War II Victory gardens while acknowledging a tie to more recent landscape interventions: on the second completed Edible Estate, in Lakewood, California, a spiral path among the vegetables recalls Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty as an homage to Land art. Through his participation in the manual labor of tilling and planting, Haeg reminds spectators that gardening for food can represent an act of rebellion against the monoculture emblematized by the American lawn.
As political actions, Haeg’s initiatives subvert the idea that humans are the earth’s apex species by alleviating our alienation from our environment, our food, and each other. Artistically, they challenge viewers and participants to diversify their own daily routines in favor of poeticism and positive interaction in all regards. TRINIE DALTON