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We visit Fritz Haeg at his home and studio in Los Angeles and receive the assignment to make a rag rug! But not just any rag rug--one that you make over time and do something on. Find more detailed instruction here:

1. Gather old textiles (clothes, bed sheets, etc.)
2. Make a rug
3. Share your journey of making the rug and what you do on it
4. Upload it using #theartassignment
5. Fame and glory (your work might be in a future episode)

Learn more about Fritz Haeg:
Watch a video about his rug at LA's Hammer Museum:
And here's another about his recent show at the Walker Art Center:

In this episode we talk about Hélio Oiticica's Parangolés (1964--79)
See video of Parangolés performed:
And learn more about Oiticica:


(0:00) Sarah: You may notice that we are standing in front of a geodesic dome.

(0:03) John: Yeah, also the beautiful mountains and the city of Los Angeles

(0:06) Sarah: And it's not just any dome, its the home, studio, and school of the artist, Fritz Haeg.

(0:10) John: 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 Blocker Arts Center, the Whitney, the Berkeley Art Museum, everywhere.

(0:22) Sarah: And since the early 2000's, he's actually been holding a series of events at his home called the Sundown Schoolhouse where he invites people in to take yoga, to listen to music, and to learn how to do new things.

(0:31) John: And we are going to go learn how to do a new thing, so let's go do that.

(0:34) Sarah: Okay. 

 Fritz Haeg

(0:35) Fritz: Hello, my name is Fritz Haeg and this is your art assignment. 

(0:43) Fritz: 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.

(0:59) Fritz: 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.

(1:16) Fritz: A lot of my work recently has 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 in a space in our cities can be broken by us strategically when we need to.

(1:55) Fritz: 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. 

(2:19) Fritz: And after a while, I got really into it and I learned how to knit and I started knitting a lot. So I think over time, once your hands are occupied with this certain kind of craft, you become familiar with it and it's embodied in some way, like you get a feel for it.

 The Assignment

(2:36) Fritz: 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 in 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.

(2:51) John: Yeah, Sarah, I gotta say, I don't think I can do this one.

(2:53) Sarah: What? Why not? You have plenty of old t-shirts, you have hands...

(2:57) John: Yeah, but I don't think I can make my hands do the motion that creates the thing.

(3:01) Sarah: 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.

(3:15) John: 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 what happens on the rug is important.

(3:27) Sarah: 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.

 Art History: Hélio Oiticica

(3:38) Sarah: In the 1960s, Brazilian artist Hélio Oiticica became involved with a 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 a way of unleashing dynamic color out into the world. He called the series "Parangolés," after the Portuguese term that roughly means a sudden agitation or confusion.

(4:07) Sarah: 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 in 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. Parangolés were not made to lie dormant in hushed galleries, 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.

 Traveling Rugs

(4:37) Fritz: It's been interesting with the rug as it travels, these rugs that travel to a lot of different cities, to have a certain amount of time on it in one city, and then an entirely different city have another life on it. 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, like, all the people involved in the particular things that they put into it and see how the rings have added up over time.


(5:06) Fritz: 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 add a lot of stitches at the beginning and then you add fewer stitches as you go on. 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.

(5:30) Fritz: So, here's the beginning of the stitch. You take -- it's 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 four or five stitches. All right, so it doesn't look like much yet, but here's my loop hanging down, 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 expanding.

(6:19) Fritz: 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 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. 

 Closing Remarks

(7:01) Fritz: 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.

(7:23) Fritz: can't see him because he's a big black shadow.

(7:26) Sarah: No, I can see him.