Blogs Field Guide

Making Fritz Haeg’s Rug

While the plants were growing outside in Fritz Haeg’s Foraging Circle, his crocheted rug was accruing mass inside the Walker. Once the Domestic Integrities A05 rug—or simply “the rug”—arrived to the Walker two weeks ago, it amassed 5 additional feet thanks to a team of enthusiastic volunteers who grew the rug’s diameter from 22 to 27 […]

While the plants were growing outside in Fritz Haeg’s Foraging Circle, his crocheted rug was accruing mass inside the Walker. Once the Domestic Integrities A05 rug—or simply “the rug”—arrived to the Walker two weeks ago, it amassed 5 additional feet thanks to a team of enthusiastic volunteers who grew the rug’s diameter from 22 to 27 feet in a brief three and a half days. While positioned in the Cargill Lounge, a very public centralized space in the Walker, the rug and its laborers attracted the attention of visitors and staff alike who were encouraged to take their shoes off to sit and learn about the communally-made artwork.

Artist Fritz Haeg demonstrating the crocheting technique. All photos by Gene Pittman.

Artist Fritz Haeg demonstrating the crocheting technique. All photos by Gene Pittman.

The entire rug is made from donated fabrics and clothing. The process involves cutting or ripping the textiles into strips that can be tied into the rug and woven in using a hand-crochet technique that’s very simple and requires no needles. We collected and used 300 lbs. of fabric to create the Minneapolis portion of the rug.

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Beginning in Pennsylvania the rug first took form at Mildred’s Lane, a rural artist-run space led by J. Morgan Puett and Mark Dion. It was there that the epicenter was created with white and neutral-toned antique fabrics more than 100 years old. The next section is a colorful contrast representing clothing from Haeg’s Los Angelenos friends where you can find a few sequins and zippers in the mix. Then onto New York City where it grew further at the Museum of Modern Art, followed by another trip back to Los Angeles where it stayed at the Hammer Museum, and finally to the Walker Art Center. All of the five sections remain separate to make the transport of this heavy rug possible.

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This is one of two rugs by Haeg that’s traveling around the United States along with a third one in Europe, that’s currently making its home at Pollinari an organic farm and artist residency center in Abruzzo, Italy.

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The Domestic Integrities A05 rug now resides in the exhibition Fritz Haeg: At Home in the City where it will be on view in the Medtronic Gallery until November 24th. Haeg will be here throughout August inhabiting the rug, knitting, doing yoga, and sharing tea with visitors.

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Talking Food at the Birchwood: Tracy Singleton Joins Fritz Haeg and Michael Pollan

When artist Fritz Haeg interviewed journalist Michael Pollan in Minneapolis this spring, the setting was key. The pair met up at the Birchwood Cafe, a foodie destination since 1995 and long a community hub for discussion and activism around sustainability. As their conversation neared its end, Birchwood owner Tracy Singleton — who’s also doing the […]

Lily Singleton, Tracy Singleton, and Michael Pollan at the Birchwood Café

Lily Singleton, Tracy Singleton, and Michael Pollan at the Birchwood Café

When artist Fritz Haeg interviewed journalist Michael Pollan in Minneapolis this spring, the setting was key. The pair met up at the Birchwood Cafe, a foodie destination since 1995 and long a community hub for discussion and activism around sustainability. As their conversation neared its end, Birchwood owner Tracy Singleton — who’s also doing the catering for the August 8, 2013, opening of Fritz Haeg’s Walker exhibition — joined in, and the trio discussed genetically modified organisms, the influence of another restauranteur, Berkeley’s Alice Waters, and the meals Pollan’s own mother made as he was growing up. Here’s an unpublished excerpt from the discussion that didn’t make our official interview between Haeg and Pollan:

Michael Pollan: I find it very empowering to learn that, “OK, here’s a bunch of people just making decisions about what to eat for dinner. We’re building a new food economy.” We all feel so helpless in the face of these huge problems, but we’re not, actually. If we organize our lives in the right way, we can have a tremendous impact. One of the things that draws people to this food issue is that they are seeing it happen in front of their eyes.

Tracy Singleton: When I try to talk to people about food and where it comes from, I don’t want to scare people or leave them feeling like they can’t go out to eat again.

Pollan: It’s definitely not all or nothing. I have to be really careful of that because people do feel like, “If I can’t go all the way, I am not going to go anywhere.” That’s why I said that last night [at Pollan's talk at Beth El Synagogue] that if you can just cook one more meal at home, that makes a difference. If you can spend $10 on local food every week, that makes a difference. We’re in this all-or-nothing culture, and I think that’s used to make people stop doing anything. “It’s not realistic for me to cut down my carbon footprint, so fuck it.” But to me, half a loaf is still half a loaf. It’s not trivial.

Singleton: I am noticing that a lot with the GMO [genetically modified organism] labeling issue. Once people become aware of GMOs, they’re like, “Well, I’m not going to eat those.” I say, “Good luck trying to avoid them!” As long as we’ve been in existence we’ve been trying to source our food under certain principles. But it can be hard to totally avoid them. With the non-GMO foods, people have this expectation: they think that because I’m talking about the issue they therefore think I’m a totally GMO-free restaurant. As much as I try to be–

Pollan:  —It’s is very hard to do. But not only that, a lot of people now think if they’ve made that choice, they have taken care of the whole issue.

Singleton: No. That’s not good enough either.

Pollan: In fact, people selling organic food are struggling with this because now the consumer feels that if they get the no-GMO label, they’ve done their bit. But in fact, they’ve only taken agriculture back to 1996, where it was not so great. People are not buying organic now and buying non-GMOs, which is really bad, because they are not connecting the dots. I was talking to someone who is selling some organic grain product or something, and she said, “Yeah, the consumer just feels like our stuff costs more and non-GMO costs a little bit more and they are figuring I have done my bit if I get that,” which is really a shame because it’s hurting organic producers.

Singleton: So if they are choosing a non-GMO item then it’s not an organic item?

Pollan: It’s not organic. It just means it’s made with conventional agricultural without GMOs, which is OK, but you’re not really doing much for the environment.

Singleton: How did you two first meet?

Fritz Haeg: Around six years ago, when I was writing and editing the first edition of the Edible Estates book, I emailed to Michael to inquire if he might let us reprint “Why Mow?” from his book Second Nature. We have corresponded a bit ever since, and last year Alice Waters invited me to come join her presentation to the Edible Education class that Micheal teaches at Berkeley. It’s an amazing, amazing class.

Pollan: Yeah. Fritz came to my class last year and gave an amazing lecture. He and Alice Waters each. It was a powerful class.

Singleton: Dynamic duo right there?

Haeg: After class we went to Chez Panisse. I was with Michael and Alice, and thinking, “OK, this is cool” — pinching myself a bit.

Pollan: It was fun. We’ve had so many great people come through this class and the students of class have become so inspired. They’re all online — Edible Education at Berkeley. Watch his class.

Haeg: Sitting here at Birchwood, Michael, I have one last question: What was your table like growing up?

Pollan: My mom was a really good cook, and she was a stay-at-home mom until I was 14 or 15, then she got a job. She had four kids, and we had family dinner four to five nights a week. But she was kind of a progressive 1960s woman, so she watched Julia Child and learned and she would try. She would make beef bourguignon or coq au vin for us. Just the kids. My dad was never home for dinner because he worked really late.

Haeg: That’s amazing.

Pollan: We were kind of lucky that way, but then we had our basics. There was a rotation. Monday night, it was usually beef. Tuesday, it was pasta. Wednesday, it would be exotic, like stir fry or pepper steak with canned pineapples. She had her rotation, and I loved her food. It was really good. Then we would get to have TV dinners on the weekend when they went out. They would go out on Saturday night.

At Home in the City Weekly Update: August 2

Pardon our silence. It hasn’t been for lack of action but rather due to far too many tasks to be accomplished out in the real world away from the computer. Foraging Circle: The July heat kicked everything into high gear and Foraging Circle is beginning to live up to its name. Raspberries have ripened, Calendula […]

Pardon our silence. It hasn’t been for lack of action but rather due to far too many tasks to be accomplished out in the real world away from the computer.

Foraging Circle:

The July heat kicked everything into high gear and Foraging Circle is beginning to live up to its name. Raspberries have ripened, Calendula seeds have been saved, Feverfew continues to bloom, and there is a Sunflower taller than Fritz. As plants fill in and grow up, hunting and gathering has become more of a challenge and, frankly, much more fun!

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At Home in the City Intern, Will Gobeli, going after the unwanted plants. Photo by Bridget Mendel.

 

Edible Estates:

Although I can personally confirm that the only thing used in the soil at Edible Estates was high quality compost, you might believe otherwise after walking around a bit. Everything is taller, lusher, and, quite possibly, happier in the Woodbury Edible Estate than in any other garden I have seen around town. As the wide variety of veggies we recieved as donations have matured, some fascinating discoveries have been made. Do you know how beautiful Purple Cauliflower is? How about Purple Brussels Sprouts? Have you ever thought of exchanging your chewing gum for a leaf of Lavendar Hyssop? Do you have juicy, ripe Fall Gold Raspberries to pick? You are not the only one drooling on your keyboard right now. Keep your eye out for a feature on KARE 11 and an update in next week’s Star Tribune.

Rest your back against the plush Brussel Sprout seating. Photo by Ashley Duffalo.

Rest your back against the plush Brussel Sprout seating. Photo by Ashley Duffalo.

 

Domestic Integrities:

Our domestic work reach full speed with Fritz’s arrival this past week. We were fully prepared: we gathered over 300 pounds of discarded fabric for the rug-making; we sourced baskets and jars and vessels galore to hold all of the goodies; and we organized a small army of volunteers to join us in Cargill Lounge to help Fritz crochet the Walker Art Center portion of the rug. Our planning and hording did not go to waste. After a week of traipsing around threads of fabric and eating our weight in bread and jam, the rug is complete and ready to be moved into the exhibition gallery. We couldn’t be more pleased with the process and with the product. Come on over, take your shoes off, and take a little stroll; you will never believe how plush this rug feels!

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Artist Fritz Haeg gives the first volunteers a training on how to crochet. Photo by Gene Pittman.

 

 

On Silence, Subjectivity, and Psychoacoustics: A Conversation with Composer and Educator Brian Heller

Now that World Listening Day has come and gone, what are we to do with the remaining 364 days? One suggestion is to take up a listening practice, a routine of setting aside a few minutes each day in which hearing can expand into listening. To enhance my practice, and as an endcap to my […]

Now that World Listening Day has come and gone, what are we to do with the remaining 364 days? One suggestion is to take up a listening practice, a routine of setting aside a few minutes each day in which hearing can expand into listening. To enhance my practice, and as an endcap to my “esteemed listener” interview series, I corresponded with composer and sound arts educator Brian Heller.

In planning the Walker’s recent observance of World Listening Day (WLD), I thought at great length about why listening matters and what we can learn from skilled listeners. From your perspective, what is it about listening—and about our relationship to listening—that merits attention?

More and more, I am of the belief that we need to acknowledge listening as a valid activity unto itself. And then we need to put that into practice. Having a day dedicated to listening encourages us to slow down and take time to experience the process of listening. No matter what you’re listening to (a natural environment, an artificial one, an artistic work, etc.), there is simply no shortcut for taking the time to experience it. WLD is a chance to consider closely our sense of hearing and our perception of sound (two different things). WLD also provides an exchange of ideas that helps us get more out of the listening process.

Speaking of the theoretical side of listening, I’ll mention R. Murray Schafer, a pioneer in the area of sound studies whose birthday is honored on WLD. In Schafer’s endeavor to understand our total sonic environment, he developed “ear cleaning” exercises which train the ears to listen more discriminatingly. Are there acoustic phenomena that for you serve as a baseline to hone your sense of hearing?

I had the pleasure of studying with Schafer for a short time and “ear cleaning” became absolutely essential. In everyday life, I try to be aware of my “noise floor,” to use a technical term from audio engineering, and I prefer it to be quite low. For example, my days of having music on while doing everything stopped some time ago. I gradually became more intentional and purposeful about listening and turned off the running soundtrack. We all know people who have the TV continuously running in the background, and I could never do that. There are many reasons why someone might choose to have the TV on, but I think it’s in part a consequence of the elevated noise-floor we’ve collectively acclimated to in modern life.

Yes, I recently heard someone use the term “hyperdrone” referring to background noise, meaning everything from humming refrigerators to roaring traffic. The value of escaping the hyperdrone and lowering our “noise floor” is beautifully articulated by Gordon Hempton, an acoustic ecologist who describes silence as an endangered species.

I definitely try to notice when I’m in a particularly quiet space. It’s not always a place you might expect, so you have to remain open wherever you are. Last winter, my lovely girlfriend and I spent some time in northern California’s Redwood forests. We were hiking amid huge trees and all the other things that live in and around them, appreciating a wonderful variety of noises. But on one particular day, in one particular place, I noticed an amazing silence. I felt like I couldn’t even hear the air! Aside from the few moments I’ve spent in an anechoic chamber, that was easily the deadest silence I’ve experienced. And it was in a place brimming with life.

Do you have a listening regimen that lets you hear with fresh ears?

As an audio engineer, dealing with the problem of a “listening regimen” is tremendous. The collection of habits and practices that address “fresh ears” are among the most important. We know that, for example, when working with recorded music our brains quickly adapt to and accept the sonic qualities of whatever we’re listening to. This means that if we spend about 20 minutes or so really getting into what we’re listening to, we’ll end up thinking it’s the best-sounding thing we’ve ever heard. (I’m talking sonically, not necessarily artistically.) This is just what the brain does. Although there are a few objective measuring tools, it gets very subjective very quickly. One way to stay objective and critical is to employ a set of recordings that are preselected “reality checks” and use these for comparison throughout the process.

One of the things I’ve most enjoyed learning from skilled listeners is how they talk about sound and the vocabulary used to describe sound’s qualities.

The old saying that “talking about music [sound] is like dancing about architecture” seems more and more true to me each day…it’s really tough!

But I’m sure you’ve got a handle on it, as I imagine terminology features prominently in your teaching. One thing I’m curious about: Are there differences between “aural,” “sonic,” and “acoustic”? It seems these words are used interchangeably but I’m sure they denote different things.

You’re correct, although sometimes the context determines meaning. Differentiating the terms (and others that might be used similarly) requires first understanding that there are (at least) 3 different things going on that get us to hear a sound:

  1. The physical fact of the way the air moves in the world (acoustics)

  2. The sensing of that air and its translation to mechanical energy in our ears (aural/sonic)

  3. And then the translation of that motion in our hearing to chemical energy for processing in the brain (psychological or psychoacoustic).

Just like anything else, any time there’s a translation or conversion from one state to another, it gets complicated.

From the standpoint of working with beginning students, I believe they need to re-imagine and then reconnect with sound as its own physical and psychological thing, and not only a carrier for music. This helps build an understanding of the technical vocabulary, which can be quite imposing. Eventually, we can go about connecting that technical language to an aesthetic one. I’ve found a key part of my role in this as a teacher is to show how vocabulary gives us better precision when talking about sound, and how essential that is. From the standpoint of being an audio engineer working with artists, however, subjectivity comes first. Just yesterday I recorded a concert where a very skilled and talented artist was having a problem with her stage monitor and asked for it to sound “more womanly.”  I’ve also been asked, among other things, to make something sound “more chocolate.” It sounds a little strange, but it’s not like there’s an obvious term for what they’re talking about, without having that technical vocabulary. Looking down at the equipment, there’s no “chocolate” knob, so you begin the process of understanding the intention and translating it into something sonic.

The more I continue to learn—especially about psychoacoustics—the more I think humbleness is in order for all of us. If there’s any doubt, question, or opposition, we like to respond definitively with the phrase “I know what I hear.” The truth is that we often don’t. This is innocent enough, because we don’t know that we don’t know. One of the core parts of my job is precisely “to know what I hear.” It’s such a rich area that there are always ways to know *better*, no matter how much you know now.

Language is one tool to describe sound, but there are also notation systems. Have you ever encountered a notation system so unusual or unconventional that it influenced your thoughts about musical performance or composition?

For some reason, I’ve always been attracted to the notational problems of composers. When I was in music school, I spent afternoons in the music library picking out random 20th century music scores that looked like they might be interesting. I wound up getting a great deal out of this, in part because it led me to see that all composers must not only have sounds in mind, but also must solve the grand problem of communicating physical instructions to let those sounds come into existence. When it comes to notation, some rather fearless models are out there which encouraged me to do whatever best gets the message across and to be open to whatever that solution looks like.

I also considered how composers use notation to get across (what I would call) different layers of meanings in their work. For example, I saw that in George Crumb, although sometimes the actual staff notation was not terribly unconventional, his layouts conveyed conceptual and symbolic aspects that might otherwise go unnoticed. I also saw smaller things Crumb did that improve clarity when one reads over a score to find relationships tying together disparate parts. In contrast to Crumb’s detailed work necessitating precise notation and complex techniques, you have Herbert Brun and John Cage using graphic devices that intentionally circumvent the ‘need’ for composer-determined precision. Some of the resulting notation systems look nothing like a conventional musical score, but get at the essence of what a score is: a practical tool to get the intended sound into the air.

World Listening Day 2013 at the Walker Art Center

World Listening Day 2013 at the Walker Art Center

Brian Heller is an artist and technician who approaches composition, recording, and education with a unique blend of skills. Since graduating from The Hartt School, he has been working as a freelance composer, recording engineer, and educator in both the public and private sectors. This has included work for Minnesota Public Radio, Antenna Audio Tours, Innova Records, Line 6, Zeitgeist, and numerous independent composers and performers. He has also published reviews and feature stories for Electronic Musician magazine, and held senior staff engineering positions at The Banff Centre, the Tanglewood Music Center, and the Aspen Music Festival and School. His compositional activities have included grants and commissions from several organizations, and performances and broadcasts across the United States, Canada, and the Czech Republic. He currently directs the Sound Arts program at Minneapolis Community and Technical College.

Reverberations of World Listening Day

Last Thursday was World Listening Day (WLD), an occasion to slow down and appreciate the complexity of listening. In the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, listeners withstood the heat and basked in refreshing sounds: fountain water, wind gusts, and conversations brimming with ideas being exchanged. Here are four of my take-aways from the Walker’s WLD2013: Tuning an […]

Last Thursday was World Listening Day (WLD), an occasion to slow down and appreciate the complexity of listening. In the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, listeners withstood the heat and basked in refreshing sounds: fountain water, wind gusts, and conversations brimming with ideas being exchanged. Here are four of my take-aways from the Walker’s WLD2013:

Tuning an instrument can be a metaphysical process.

Photo: Gene Pittman

Artist Philip Blackburn explains his Wind Harps to intern Katherine Lee. Photo: Gene Pittman

In beating sun and gusting winds, artist Philip Blackburn installed his Wind Harps. Throughout the evening, these five vertically oriented instruments provided subtle, eery sounds for the patient and attentive listener. In the process of assembling the instruments and tightening their fishing line harp strings, an intern asked exactly how they were tuned. Blackburn’s response was that it is more a metaphysical process than a strictly musical process. It involves adjusting the harps in response to the specific environment and conditions.

Listening is deeply personal.

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The Sculpture Garden on a summer evening, World Listening Day. Photo: Gene Pittman

As the sun neared the horizon and the heat relented, independent acts of listening were amplified by Soniferous Garden, a free leaflet created by artist Viv Corringham. Months earlier in the planning process, when I asked Corringham if she might prepare written instructions for listening, she replied that the instructions are really quite simple: resolve not to speak and open your ears to listening. From Corrinham’s perspective, what’s interesting about listening is not the “how to” but rather the “what then?” Corringhams’ contribution encouraged reflective listening and contemplation of sound’s role in memory, subjectivity, and experience.

Humans are not the only listeners.

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Participants at “The Ear of the Beholder” activity. Photo: Gene Pittman

What if you could try on another animal’s ears and listen to the world from that animal’s aural perspective? At World Listening Day, participants could do just that at “The Ear of the Beholder,” an activity led by biologists Mark Bee and Norman Lee. Using pop songs as a starting point, this activity led me to re-consider our sonic environment. Our soundscape is not inconsequential or purely incidental. Rather, embedded in the noise are abundant signals, many of which are inaudible or unintelligible to human ears. Imagine the diversity of organisms that, like humans, contribute to and depend on the soundscape for survival.

There are no limits to listening.

Participants at the “Mindful Soundwalk” activity. Photo: Gene Pittman

With gently closed eyes or a soft gaze, listeners opened themselves up to the full experience of receiving sonic information. Mark Nunberg, guiding teacher at the Common Ground Meditation Center, led listeners on a mindful soundwalk through the Sculpture Garden. Nunberg commented that there’s really no end to our capacity to explore and be receptive to our sonic environment. A listening practice is something one can return to again and again, at any point in time and in any setting.

Enjoy the listening.

A Parade of Flowers and a Football Stadium: Before the Sculpture Garden

Before the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden existed, the space was a formal garden, a playing field and, once upon a time, a swamp. As we celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, it is only fitting to comb through the archives and dust off some maps, memos and moments from the garden’s pre-history. On the […]

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Before the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden existed, the space was a formal garden, a playing field and, once upon a time, a swamp. As we celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, it is only fitting to comb through the archives and dust off some maps, memos and moments from the garden’s pre-history.

On the layout of the Lowry Hill Area in the late 1800s, Minnesota’s first ornithologist, Thomas Sadler Roberts, recalls a forest perfect for bird watching and fishing.

“The oak woods that is now Loring Park was in the country and the lake near by… had a considerable outlet—deep enough for bass and pickerel to come and go—which crossed Hennepin, the old territorial road, about where Harmon Place now joins that avenue. This stream ran into the weedy lake which with the surrounding meadow occupied most of the present Parade Ground. Ducks bred there and in 1877 it was still a meadow…” (Shotgun and Stethoscope, 1991)

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These first recollections of water and swamp would haunt the early history of the space. The Parade Ground, first called Hiyata Park, was an early name for the ten-acre plot that is now the Sculpture Garden. Minneapolitans constructed a magisterial Armory on the site with crenellated, stone walls for the Spanish-American War National Guard volunteers at the turn of the century. The area soon was to house athletic fields and demonstration gardens.

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The Armory would play host to many budding gardeners, eager to trade notes on floriculture in a hardy and challenging environment. A 1913 florist and horticulture convention would “demonstrate,” as park superintendant Theodore Wirth put it, “to the out-of-state visitors that the Minnesota climate is not so adverse to successful achievements in floriculture as some people from other parts of the country are inclined to believe.” Who knew the Minneapolis Florists’ Club Baseball team defeated the reigning All Star champs? Florists all over the country used to enjoy the bat-and-ball sport. By 1940, with field lights and bleachers installed, the Parade was “the place to play.”

A commercial plane landed in the Parade grounds from New York in 1920, setting a world record for freight transportation. In 1928, the year before the Armory was deemed unfit for usage, a public programming extravaganza was staged within its walls. This included an old time fiddlers’ contest, a “midnite frolic,” and a dance “Bearcat” marathon that lasted over 974 hours. Much like the Internet Cat Video Film Festival, “folks say it’s the silliest thing ever witnessed, BUT they all come back to watch the marathon.” (Journal advertisement,1928).  In 1933, the Armory was torn down after sinking nearly four and a half feet into the ground.

It was to change names many times. After the Armory sank, and the space was simply a garden, ideas were thrown around: the delicate “Parade of Flowers,” the formal “Cathedral Gardens,” and the rather academic-sounding “Park Board Demonstration Gardens.”

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The space that the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden inhabits has been of horticultural interest for over a century. While gardens were present for most of the first half of the 1900s, in 1967 the Parade’s flowerbeds were removed for construction of the highway. By 1973, there were only a “few fine elms” dotting the landscape.

In a memo from 1988, Martin Friedman announces, “It’s not everyday that we can grow a garden together—metaphorically, as well as actually.” It is hard to imagine that Minneapolis’s crowning jewel of horticulture and art was once a swampland frequented by ducks.

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All images courtesy of the Walker Art Center Archives.

Together at the Tree: An Interview with Jared Walhowe

I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Jared Walhowe, who works with two programs — The Garden Gleaning Project and Fruits of the City — housed within the Minnesota Project. If you had the opportunity to come to our most recent Free First Saturday you may have met one of the wonderful people representing […]

I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Jared Walhowe, who works with two programs — The Garden Gleaning Project and Fruits of the City — housed within the Minnesota Project. If you had the opportunity to come to our most recent Free First Saturday you may have met one of the wonderful people representing the Garden Gleaning Project and may even have taken home a lettuce or cabbage plant for your home garden. My conversation with Jared focused on his work in relation to some of the themes found in Fritz Haeg: At Home in the City.

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How did the Garden Gleaning Project come to be?

We started informally in 2010 or 2011. At the time I was working at a food shelf called Waite House, as well as Gardening Matters. Gardening Matters is a local gardening organization and emergency food shelf network that supports all of the local food shelves, as well as the food banks that these food shelves order from. At first it was just a couple food shelves and nonprofits that got together and talked about how to get more fresh foods and vegetables on the shelves and how to get gardeners to help. They hosted the meetings and it turned into the Garden Gleaning Project. That first year it was myself with Waite House and the Little Kitchen Food Shelf in our spare time.

The next year we received funding from Hennepin County which allowed us to hire community coordinators to serve as liaisons between the gardens and the food shelves. We’ve been able to do a lot more outreach than before; many people didn’t know you could donate fresh produce, or what foods the shelves were even looking for. We had neighbors that didn’t know about us. A really localized effort is our strategy: just that neighborhood around that food shelf. The coordinators make connections, advocate for the food shelves in the community, and build relationships with farmers and gardeners.

Food shelves are stretched; a lot of them are exclusively volunteer-run, some are open one or two days of the week, some are open every day but include one paid manager that works 24/7. Some have volunteer coordinators, but we’ve found that accountability increases with a stipend position. The little money we put toward that stipend position comes back many times over. It’s more than just the pounds of food; now our neighbors knows about the food shelf. Maybe they weren’t interested in giving money, but now that they know about other ways we need help they are more than willing to volunteer at home or at the community garden. But the program is really about building relationships.

We have another sister program that’s a little bit older called Fruits of the City. Fruits of the City has a class every month in relation to growing food, usually fruit trees, but smaller plants, too. The main thing that program does is to connect with fruit tree owners and get them to register their trees with us. Last year we harvested 40,000 lbs of apples – most of it was from backyards. There’s a lot of community building in that too, and that’s what I’m interest in. I have neighbors meet neighbors whom they had never met before, because they came out and volunteered at their neighbors’ house. There are different ways to engage in both the programs, and both of them are trying to explore getting more healthy food into food shelves and building those connections and relationships.

Part of your aim is to create a Toolkit to serve as a model to help other food shelves and gardeners connect on their own. Can you tell me a little about the resources you’ve compiled to help people build these gardener/food shelf relationships elsewhere?

Well, it’s a growing model. In addition to having a coordinator at each of these food shelves, a larger, much more long-term goal is to create resources to help food shelves do this work. Hennepin County funded this project, but they want our model to help food shelves everywhere. We were able to finish this last winter. The neighborhood coordinators contributed pieces, all of those nonprofits in the back contributed, and a lot of it is coming from the food shelves and what has worked for them.

What I think is really great about this is that we’ve gotten people to download it across the US and internationally as well. My hope is that our Garden Gleaning Project Toolkit changes so it can be useful in, say, the Southwest in the same way it’s useful here. It doesn’t have all the answers, but I think this can start the conversation and we want to extend the invitation to talk with us and help us build a stronger Tool Kit.

The role I want to play is in starting that conversation, and having done this project, we’ve had people reach out and share their own gleaning experiences. So my new question is how can we learn from and share information between all of these disparate organizations that are doing similar work and find out what’s working for them? I think soon there’ll be a conference or something, because it seems like people are starting to know about each other. I mean, Fruits of the City started doing it really autonomously; they basically just geocached the trees and let people do whatever they wanted. Garden Gleaning is a little more organized, because we want to bring people together at the tree. I want to see more of those gatherings.

Fritz Haeg said a great thing in an interview with Paul Schmelzer that I wanted to share with you, “The projects I’m most interested in are the ones that exist in this fantastic, ideal notion of what the city I want to live in looks like—creating some small piece of that and putting it into the least likely part of the city to see that contrast between the city we want and the city we have.” I was curious what your ideal city looks like and how your work with The Minnesota Project relates to that?

I guess ideally we wouldn’t need food shelves. Ideally everyone would have access to land. There would be public spaces where folks could harvest food for themselves and others.

We do have a little bit of that. There are some fruit trees on our greenways and public spaces, and that’s a beautiful thing. We really want to support this idea of a community orchard, that is, a public space that anyone is welcome to, where food is free. It’s accessible and there are no stigmas or barriers surrounding it.

We worked with the the Frogtown neighborhood to do a pop-up tree nursery where we took a vacant lot that used to be a liquor store and planted a bunch of tiny fruit trees and let them grow for a while. Seitu Jones headed up this project and distributed them to neighbors in the area. Anyone who wanted fruit trees could have them. Because of this project, we have lots of new fruit tree owners using land that wasn’t being utilized otherwise and making fresh fruit more accessible.

And these food/forest concepts of turning underutilized spots into very diverse, really open and accessible edible gardens, like Fritz Haeg’s Foraging Circle that are perennial, come back year after year, and don’t require a lot of maintenance are part of the city I want to live in.

The goal of parks is to serve everyone – you can’t have one person come and pick all the apples. My thought is that we don’t have enough apple trees. If there aren’t enough for everyone, we don’t have enough. We have laws that say foraging is illegal on park land and I think the Foraging Circle is going to help us break ground on that issue and raise questions about these regulations. It’s kind of a wavering line between an art piece and a park, and that helps show it’s possible. and I’m really excited that that happened. That the Foraging Circle is a permanent installment is incredible.

I mean, we aren’t an arts non-profit. I love that he [Fritz] is doing this work. It may help us make connections and maybe get more traditional art-goers to think about food in these realms and start conversations about food in terms of access and where it exists in those spaces.

The Garden Gleaning Project is relationship-based thing as well, and it doesn’t seem as tangible as the orchard, it’s more nebulous. We have constellations of gardeners growing a tiny bit here and a tiny bit there. But I think those are real things.

Going back to that quote, if we can incorporate more edibles and community orchards, community gardens, who’s to say it isn’t art? Who’s to say it is? And how do we bring the art outside? We think of art as in a museum, but how can we think of art as something that lives everywhere and is accessible? It’s not behind walls, there’s no admission. I’m very interested in that.

If you would like to donate your time or lovingly grown produce to your local food shelf, please register your garden at gardengleaning.org/register or your fruit trees by sending an email to fruits@mnproject.org .

Listening, Online and Off, with Sound Designer Mike Hallenbeck

The sonic power of phone books. The realm of the acousmatic. Binaural bicycle rides. These are a few of the concepts that came up in my correspondence with sound designer Mike Hallenbeck. With the Walker’s public observance of World Listening Day about 1 week away, my investigation into aural attention continues. As I gather insights […]

World Listening Day 2013 at the Walker Art Center

World Listening Day 2013 at the Walker Art Center

The sonic power of phone books. The realm of the acousmatic. Binaural bicycle rides. These are a few of the concepts that came up in my correspondence with sound designer Mike Hallenbeck. With the Walker’s public observance of World Listening Day about 1 week away, my investigation into aural attention continues. As I gather insights on listening from professional listeners in our community, I appreciated the opportunity to bend Hallenbeck’s ears for a few questions.

Mike, your writings and audiocraft emphasize sound’s profound variety, its function as a wordless language, and its influence on the imagination. Reflecting on your experiences, what listening prompts would you propose for World Listening Day to facilitate discovery through listening?

I suppose the thing is simply to ask oneself: “What do I hear?” Learn to break down what you’re hearing. What’s happening in high frequencies, mid-range, and lower frequencies? What’s tonal, what’s rhythmic, what’s harmonic? (Any soundscape, from a symphony to a forest to a racetrack, will usually include these elements.) How dense is it? How sparse? Where are things located in the stereo or surround field? What’s happening that you like, and what do you wish was different? This sort of question—”What does it sound like?”—might sound overly simple, but I find it to be central in sound practice. It helps determine how to appreciate and improve sound/music that you’re creating or evaluating, and helps one to respond to the world at large.

But the obvious rejoinder—and one I agree with—is that this isn’t an approach exclusive to sound, or indeed to any sense. Lately I’m asking myself more about the conversation between sound and vision, and to tell you the truth that’s something I’m still exploring in a very elemental sense. I work more and more with sound that responds to and collaborates with visual and/or narrative elements, so these days I’m far more concerned with the interaction of the senses than with sound on its own. To me the important thing is to cultivate a sense of awareness that involves all the senses, incorporating listening into one’s overall practice of mindfulness.

That makes sense—the integration of sound and sight are key to your work as a Foley artist. Like trompe-l’œil for the ear, Foley artists add sounds to recorded media that seem naturalistic but are in fact an artifice. Can you describe a surprising method or material you’ve encountered in Foley art?

Lately I’ve been pondering the unexpected sonic power of the phone book. When I did one of my first Foley assignments for film, I looked up some how-to videos online to figure out how to fake the sound of a punch. I found a video made by an eleven-year-old where he demonstrated how to replicate a punch sound by closing a phone book really hard. It didn’t work for the entire sound—I wound up mixing in a vocalization to add a little sharpness—but it got me pretty far along.

Recently I attended a panel discussion by some Foley artists where two of them shared techniques on how to simulate bodily impacts on a floor surface (other than throwing yourself on the floor, which I can confirm gets old real quick). Both suggested an article of clothing (one a leather jacket, the other some coveralls), but both recommended filling said clothing with—that’s right—phone books. So the idea’s got legs.

I’m looking forward to furthering my phone book savvy soon. I just hope they don’t stop making them, or else I’ll have to start using Henry James novels.

Speaking of books, your “Audiobook” posts on your Synching Ship blog resonate with me. Would you be able to suggest a reading along those aurally attuned lines for World Listening Day?

Sound is really hard to describe using language, but it can be done. Usually I’ll come across a deft description of sound only here and there in books, and the “audiobook” feature is a way to share it with others and (just as importantly) to remember it myself.

Something that comes to mind is “Cold Mountain” by Charles Frazier. The descriptions of music performance (the stuff performed by Jack White and company in the movie) are some of the most eloquent I’ve ever encountered. I recall “Company” by Samuel Beckett having some nice descriptions of quiet, subtle sounds, but that’s kind of a vague memory.

In your day-to-day appreciation of all things aural, especially environmental sounds, have you been earwitness to sounds that might be disappearing from our soundscape?

My own day-to-day is fairly banal, so I wouldn’t say there’s much change there. But the demands of consumer society appear to be destroying habitats of many species at a pretty rapid clip, which will silence a lot of creatures’ calls as they go extinct. Bioacousticians like Bernie Krause have demonstrated how nature’s sonic identity has been altered as human-made sounds intrude on the frequency spectrum.

I’m doing what I can to address the problem by typing a bunch of words on a computer screen.

The impact of human noise on the wild soundscape is a fascinating topic. In the Sculpture Garden, for example, birds might be developing an urban dialect and the chattering red squirrels are absent since their extirpation in 1909. Take a sonic snapshot of your environment right now. What sounds are you perceiving and are there any special meanings you make of them?

Unfortunately right now I’m listening to Pandora; I’ve created a station that will generate music choices extrapolated from the music of The Shadows. So far I’ve gotten The Esquires, Junior Brown, Link Wray, The Blue Stingrays, and Santo & Johnny (it turns out their track “Sleep Walk” is something I’ve wanted to know the name of for years). I imagine that’s not the kind of answer you were looking for though…

You’re right that I was “looking for” environmental sounds, but your answer aptly demonstrates the contemporary listener’s condition. We are constantly toggling back and forth between mediated and unmediated sound worlds, awash in a mix of “original” and “reproduced” sounds. For me, this calls to mind the work of R. Murray Schafer, the sound researcher whose birthday is honored by World Listening Day. Schafer examined how the Industrial and Electric Ages revolutionized our relationship to listening. He coined the term “schizophonia” to describe the split between original sounds and their copies. From your perspective, what is the delineation between original sounds and electroacoustic reproductions? Could there even be sounds that don’t easily fall into one category or the other?

The light rail train offers a nice example of schizophonia—the train emits electronically sampled sounds of the warning bells at a railroad stop, and—if memory serves—the whistle of a steam locomotive. It’s easy to assume these sounds are produced by actual physical processes, but in fact they’re “fake”. All that matters is that we get the message to be careful in the train’s vicinity.

Yes, a sort of sonic pastiche. The signals’ function is to be interpreted without hesitation, but when we pause to listen, there’s a more complex story behind them.

I guess what we’re talking about here is the realm of the “acousmatic”—an experience of sound merely as a reproduction through speakers, especially when it’s something created electronically in the first place (as with synthesizers, sampled drum loops and the like). The auto-tuned voice comes to mind—it’s gotten to the point where it’s not just an effect in pop and R&B anymore, but just, you know, kind of how voices are expected to sound, like it’s something singers learn as part of their vocal training. It makes me wonder how many people have portrayed Alvin and the Chipmunks over the years—since all you have to do is speed up somebody’s voice, it could be anybody.

It’s odd how technologies like that lose their novelty as we assimilate them into our sonic vocabulary. I’m curious if you can you offer some ways that the Internet has changed our relationship to listening? (For one thing, without the Internet, we’d never have your riotously funny (and schizophonic?) Rickroll chronicle.)

The Internet is a huge topic, since it manifests itself in so many ways. The first thing that comes to mind for me is that it’s ratcheted down appreciation of sound quality. Lo-fi is a new standard in video, and there have been studies that show younger people often prefer mp3s encoded at degraded bit rates to high-resolution audio. Ick.

However, the Internet has been huge in terms of transforming sound practice for the better. I’ll focus on the community-building aspect, which is pretty much universal for any group but has dovetailed especially nicely with sound art. Back before I did anything “practical” with sound, I had no idea just how many people out there were also interested in capturing audio signals “in the field” and curating concrete sounds as art. When I became aware of resources like the phonography listserv I discovered all these other folks out there who were into the same kind of stuff, all over the world—a small community, but a vibrant one. This led to the discovery of all this history, methodology, theory, technical advice, opportunity to share work… you name it. The floodgates opened. It was really transformative.

Your blog curates and draws attention to the language of sounds, sometimes foregrounding sounds produced for effect such as the blat, the beep, the artificial water tank, or Google-translated beatboxing. But you also unplug from time to time and listen to the world of “unmediated sounds.” Along those lines, how would you explore the Twin Cities to get a sense of its sonic texture?

I’d recommend a bike ride around Minneapolis in the summer. One of the things I like about biking is that while you’re traveling relatively quickly, which can be exhilarating, you’re not encased in anything and you’re traveling slowly enough to experience sensory intimacy with your surroundings. I like the crunches and crashes of the recycling stations I pass on North Second Street. When I pass the Metrodome there are sometimes kids skateboarding, and I love all the pock-crack impacts skateboards make. And generally speaking, the tactile crunch and grind of the bike tire against the street is pleasing to my ear as well.

Sure—like a soundwalk but on wheels rather than foot! One of my favorite Synching Ship posts was your binaural bike ride from Easter 2011. It’s delightful and demonstrative of how sounds ground our awareness in time and in space.

Mike Hallenbeck Photo: Amy Myrbo

Mike Hallenbeck is a composer and sound designer active in a variety of media. He adopts sounds both hither and yon, brings them home and helps them decide what to be when they grow up. He blogs at synchingship.blogspot.com and maintains a home page at juniorbirdman.com.

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