You may notice
that we’re standing in front of a geodesic dome. Yeah, also the beautiful
mountains and the city of Los Angeles. And it’s not just any dome. It’s the home,
studio, and school of the artist Fritz Haeg. I’m a really big
Fritz Haeg fan. He did this amazing
project Edible Estates, where he helped people transform
their lawns into vegetable gardens. He’s also shown around the
world– the Walker Art Center, the Whitney, the Berkeley
Art museum, everywhere. SARAH URIST GREEN: And
since the early 2000s, he’s actually been holding a
series of events at his home, called the Sundown Schoolhouse,
where invites people in to take yoga, to
listen to music, and to learn how
to do new things. And we are going to learn
how to do a new thing today. So let’s go do that. Okay. Hello, my name’s Fritz Haeg. And this is your art assignment. I’ve been very aware
of architecture from a very young age. And all the way
through grade school and high school, my main focus
was really on designing houses. I really would design houses. I would sit down and
draw plans and elevations and walk through these
buildings in my head. I’m not doing
architecture anymore. I’m not doing buildings anymore. For years, that I haven’t
been doing that kind of work. But the same impetus
is still there, the same general
impulse, which has to do with imagining and
creating new ways of living. A lot of my work
recently is involved institutionalizing the
home and domesticating the institution of the museum. So when these rugs are placed
in museums, especially very austere, concrete
museums, there’s this rich contrast
between the formality of the institution
and the warmth and hominess of the rugs. I like those
moments where people feel like they can suddenly
take off their shoes and get on the floor
and feel at home. These hard definitions
of architecture and of space in our cities can
be broken by us strategically, when we need to. It’s funny. This project started
two years ago. And before that, I had never
done any work with textiles. I hadn’t been knitting yet. And for some reason, I think
I was going through piles of clothes and realized
how many things I had here and just started to
experiment making these rugs and really spent
an entire winter, just braiding and crocheting
rugs out of this old material I had around. And after a while, I
got really into it. And then I learned how to knit,
and I started knitting a lot. So I think over time, once
your hands are occupied with a certain kind of craft,
you become familiar with it, and it’s embodied in some way. Like you get a feel for it. Your art assignment is to
gather up all the old clothes and sheets and towels
and rags that you don’t know what to
do with your house and to make a huge
crocheted rug. And then to use the
rug for something, to do something on it. And to share your stories and
pictures and videos online. Yeah, Sarah, I’ve got to say,
I don’t think I can do this one. What? Why not? You have plenty of old
t-shirts, you have hands. Yeah, but I don’t
think I can make my hands do the motion
that creates the thing. Well, I believe in you John. And I think you have to not
focus so much on the finished product, but how fun it could
be to invite over your friends, pool your resources, and
make it all together. And you know, you could
definitely enlist your mother for this one. Oh, that’s a good
idea actually. If you have a knitting, goat
soap maker in your family, this is the art assignment
to collaborate with them on. I like that idea. Also I do like the idea that
like what happens on the rug is important. Right, I think that’s where the
art historical precedent comes in, actually. There are many examples
of objects where the thing itself isn’t as key
as where it’s been and what you do with it. In the 1960s, Brazilian
artist Helio Oiticica became involved with
the School of Samba in the Mangueira favela
of Rio de Janeiro. Inspired by the group, he began
making capes, flags, banners, and tents made from all sorts of
painted textiles and materials, all meant to be worn and
performed while dancing. For Oiticica, the
sculptural garments were the way of unleashing
dynamic color out into the world. He called the
series “Parangoles,” after the Portuguese
term that roughly means a sudden
agitation or confusion. When he first presented the
works to the public in 1965 at Rio’s Museum
of Modern Art, he invited dancers from Mangueira
to perform the capes. However, museum authorities
suddenly agitated and confused, didn’t allow it. And Oiticica and company
paraded out of the museum and into the
surrounding gardens. Parangoles were not made to
lie dormant in hushed gallery but were things that had
to be activated by use. They were necessarily
part of lived experience, as much for the dancers
who inhabited them as those who were part
of the scene around them. It’s been interesting
with the rug as it travels. These rugs that travel
to a lot different cities to have a certain amount of
time in one city and then an entirely different city
have another lifetime. This rug travels around. It adds a ring with
the local people. It gets bigger, and
then it moves on. So it’s become quite a
charged space for me. I go to the rug in Berkeley
now, and I look at it. And I can remember all the
people who were involved and the particular things
that they put into it and see how the rings
have added up over time. I’ll show you how to start. And the thing with crochet is
that you have to add stitches. You have to keep
adding stitches. And you have to have a lot
of stitches at the beginning. And then you add fewer
stitches as you go out. You just start with a simple
slip knot to make a loop. And you pull it tight. So that’s the
beginning of the rug. So here’s the beginning
of the stitch. You take– its finger crochet,
so you don’t use any tools. I have fingers sticking
through, and I pull a loop. And now I’m just casting on. And I’ve made one stitch, and
I’m pulling through another. So I cast on like
four or five stitches. All right, so it doesn’t
look like much yet. But here’s my
strip hanging down. Here’s the loop
between my fingers. And I’m going to add on a
stitch without attaching it, like I was casting on. And then I’m going to
pick up a loop and stitch. And I’m going to alternate like
that, just at the beginning, to keep adding
stitches and expand it. But here’s the basic stitch. My fingers– usually I use
three fingers to pull it. I’m controlling the tension
here, with this hand. I’m using this finger to find
the next loop and pull it out, which maybe at the
beginning isn’t so obvious. But it’s the outermost loop. I pull it out with my finger. And I use these three
fingers to find it and then pull it through. So again, pulling
out with my finger, these three fingers
coming through. And that’s one stitch. So this is the
beginning of a rug. I like these two
extreme possibilities for the art assignment– that it
could be something very social, where a lot of people could
be involved very quickly. Or it could be something very
solitary that evolves gradually over time, in your house. [LAUGHTER] You can’t see him, because
he’s a big black shadow.