July 14, 2008

Fritz Haeg’s Animal Estates 4.2: Peregrine Falcon

After this weekend’s second installment of Fritz Haeg’s Animal Estates weekend workshops, I’m finally starting to get what Fritz’s project is about. This workshop was Animal Client 4.2: The Peregrine Falcon. There was a Peregrine model home/habitat on display in the SFMOMA Visitor Education Center, and a Peregrine-Falcon lecture by Allen Fish, from the Golden Gate Raptor Observatory . (Among other things, we learned that the female peregrine is almost twice the size of the male peregrine, and this fact of the natural world has been termed, yes, REVERSE SEXUAL DIMORPHISM. Feminist poet-types, go after that.)

After the lecture we all went downstairs to the Schwab room for an animal-sound experiment organized by Carson Bell, “Curatorial Specialist” at the California Library of Natural Sound at the Oakland Museum. Carson had thirteen boomboxes set up around the room and a specialized system wherein on the count of three (plus “GO”), thirteen volunteers pushed thirteen play buttons, and were treated to a surround-sound-scape of conversation from the animals Fritz’s project focuses on: Peregrine Falcon, California Quail, and California Sea Lion. (Nota bene: no salamander sound. The little guys don’t get around much and thus I suppose haven’t got much to say).

So. What on earth is the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art doing with an animal workshop series on the weekends and a geodesic tent in the Education Center? Frank Smigiel, associate curator of public programs, & the guy responsible for bringing Fritz Haeg here for the month, describes Fritz’s projects thus: His many event-based projects re-imagine everyday space, and the activities incumbent upon it. The answer, for me, on Sunday, was about what happened among the small clusters of people we convinced ought to come into the Schwab room to push buttons on all-but-extinct sound-playing machines: little tiny listening and talking and laughing communities. Grown-up sized people and less grown-up sized people.

Someone working the information desk in the Atrium told me that, on hearing the sounds of happy animals emanating from the Schwab room Sunday afternoon, a visitor approached and said, “It is very irresponsible of you to have sea lions in the museum!”

It’s worth noting that Animal Estates appears as part of a new “Live Art” programming series. More like experiments or propositions than a performance series, Frank’s Live Art @ SFMOMA program explores new intersections among visual, performing, and public art. It particularly seeks out artists who re-imagine seemingly vernacular forms (like the education workshop) so as to foster new relationships among artists, viewers, and public space. In other words, look for more of the same in months upcoming.

NEXT WEEKEND: Client 4.3: California Quail. Presentation and model home building with Alan S. Hopkins, Golden Gate Audubon Society; and an animal movement workshop with Terre Parker and Taira Restar from Anna Halprin’s Sea Ranch Collective.

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