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Commissioned by San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) / July 2008 / downloads: FIELD GUIDE (pdf) / POSTCARDS (pdf)



Weekly events (four Sundays in July) include a series of presentations by local experts on each of the four animal clients, and the Estates that can be made for them. These are followed by animal related activities/workshops involving sound, movement, garments, and writing. A geodesic tent in the museum serves as the local Animal Estates headquarters, containing information on the project and serve as the site for the weekly events. Printed materials about the project are available at the museum, including the San Francisco Animal Estates Field Guide, a poster announcing the project, and a series of postcards on each animal. Instructions on how to build the estates are made public, encouraging local residents to make their own version of the model homes on their own private property. For the San Francisco edition of the project, four local animal clients were selected (go to FULL SCHEDULE)...



4.1: California Slender Salamander (Batrachoseps attenuatus)

4.2: California Quail (Callipepla californica)

4.3: Peregrine Falcon (Falco Peregrinus)

4.4: California Sea-Lion ( Zalophus californianus)  



Every Sunday in July 2008 / from 11am - 3pm / more info & schedule

MICHELLE KOO, California Academy of Sciences


ALLEN FISH, Golden Gate Raptor Observatory

CARSON BELL, California Library of Natural Sounds

ALAN S. HOPKINS, Past President of Golden Gate Audubon Society

TERRE PARKER & TAIRA RESTAR, Anna Halprin's Sea Ranch Collective

ANN BAUER, The Marine Mammal Center





- by Frank Smigiel, Associate Curator, Public Programs, SFMOMA

With a keen attention to the histories of experimental architecture and conceptual art, Fritz Haeg re-imagines everyday space and the activities incumbent upon it.  In his Sundown Salons, his own Los Angeles home became the stage for classes, workshops, and performance.  His Sundown Schoolhouse placed drop-in dance clinics in a New York corporate atrium and expression-training sessions in a Philadelphia art center, while proposing an alternative-school model inspired by Black Mountain Collage.  Via Edible Estates, Haeg helps suburban homeowners across the country to tear up their front lawns and replace them with food-bearing gardens-turning what is usually an unused trophy space into a neighborhood meeting place and resource.

What carries across these workshops, events, and actions is a rich inversion, flipping public into private, turning the inactive into the active.  I had helped Haeg to host Dancing 9-5, those drop-in dance clinics, for the former Whitney Museum of American Art at Altria space, right across from Grand Central Station.  A dead-end if all-glass corporate lobby-it seemingly leads to nothing but the Whitney gallery and a winter garden, the latter occasionally host for larger-scale sculpture and folks retreating from the streets-and it found itself, via Haeg, turned on, with guests looking for the right clinic and gawkers watching and maybe even advancing inside from the very busy mid-town Manhattan streets.

Importantly today, Haeg's inversions proceed not through impersonal spectacle but very personal contact.  No fancy lights or video projections flooded 42nd Street (it was Dancing 9-5, after all), but people were moving together in a place where solitary motion or stasis is the default option.  A micro-community had been built, as Haeg invited an outstanding group of contemporary dancers to take up residence and do what they do.  If the public on the street was more tentative in joining, the dancers' teachers, friends, and students were not-and a party of dancers quickly found itself a new HQ.

For his latest project, Animal Estates, keyed to this San Francisco presentation, Haeg offers four model home-building workshops for local animal "clients": the slender salamander, peregrine falcon, quail, and sea lion.  Haeg gathers local scientists and educators to discuss each client, invites groups like Feral Childe, the California Library of Natural Sounds, Anna Halprin's Sea Ranch Collective, and 826 Valencia to design client-related activities and workshops, and provides an Animal Estates Head Quarters in our Koret Visitor Education Center to become a resource hub for local wildlife organizations and advocacy.  We'll also learn how to build habitats for each of these clients-a knowledge anyone can take to a backyard or nearby open space.

I fully expect Animal Estates will tweak the public spaces of SFMOMA, engage creative communities from across the Bay Area, and invite all of us to consider the human v. animal habitats in this pricey (if fairly park-laden) place we call home.  I should note too that Animal Estates appears as part of a new "Live Art" program here, initiated thanks to a grant from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.  More like experiments or propositions than a performance series, Live Art @ SFMOMA looks to explore new intersections among visual, performing, and public art.  It particularly seeks out artists who re-imagine seemingly vernacular forms so as to foster new relationships among artists, viewers, and public space.

I can think of few artists today who work so strongly in such an idiom, building each project to teach, to transform, and to connect people in shared endeavors.  I'm pleased Fritz Haeg and Animal Estates will join SFMOMA this July-and show how utopian ideas and everyday gestures might be imagined and, importantly, performed together.

San Francisco Animal Lore

Someone told me that, in the days and weeks after that tiger escaped from San Francisco Zoo on Christmas Day, there were a series of attempted break outs by other animals.
- Dominic

Out of the corner of my eye, I see a dark shape on the side of the road. I turn back to inspect. I discover a Red-tailed Hawk dead and not yet cold. It is holding a mouse in its talons. The hawk is magnificent– absolutely perfect, except that one eye has popped out of the eye socket. I look through that eye. My eye looking through the eye of a hawk. Looking around at my neighborhood, my home, my family, my self. Looking into the metaphor. Seeing in a new way.
- Taira

In November 2006, I was swimming in Aquatic Park as I have done for the past twenty years as a member of the Dolphin Club. I was enjoying the swim when I felt a brush under my feet. I thought to myself  “that feels like whiskers”. A few seconds later, I saw a seal or sea lion (this has been a topic of discussion since the episode happened) pop up next to me. As I continued to swim, the animal began to follow me. Then, things got scary. The animal started nipping at my legs. I promptly turned back to shore and realized, I was being followed. I continued to be followed all the way to the beach being repeatedly bitten and nipped on my legs. I got out, and walked the beach until I was able to get into the showers at the Club. I promptly called the Marine Mammal Center from the showers. They instructed me to go to the hospital to get the wounds cleaned. California Pacific Emergency room intake people were surprised at the story to say the least. Needless to say, I realized that for all these years, I have been sharing the Bay with lots of creatures, this one just decided to get a bit more familiar.
- Celeste

As part of the effort to prevent the extermination of the largest land mammal of North America, San Francisco began a captive breeding program in 1891. Originally, the herd began with the purchase of a "family": one cow named Madame Sarah Bernhardt and a bull named Ben Harrison, from Wyoming and Kansas, respectively. Their paddock was located just east of the present-day Academy of Sciences and some were moved to the current location in 1899. With the addition of 3 bison in 1905 from Yellowstone National Park, by 1918 the herd had grown to 30. In 1980, 7 bison came down with bovine tuberculosis and were transferred to an enclosure just east of the San Francisco County jail in San Bruno. The healthy remnants of the original herd were donated in 1995 to a wildlife reserve in Southern Oregon. The current herd has 12 females. Seven of the females are descendants of the 12 female and 2 male yearlings, purchased in 1984 by Richard Blum (husband of Senator Feinstein) to replace the infected herd.
- Aimee

BioArts International, a startup company in Marin County, is offering free dog cloning to the winner of a contest. The Mill Valley company, led by CEO Lou Hawthorne, will clone the dog of a person who writes the best 500-word essay on why their dog should be cloned. "What if you could be best friends again?" the company asks in a banner ad on its web site pitching the contest. The company hopes to develop techniques used with farm animals to "produce build-to-order premium cattle and horse embryos for both Chinese agribusiness and the global export market," according to its web site.
- San Francisco Business Times, by Steven E.F. Brown

It was always near sunset, and the narrow side yard of her house was bathed in a watery orange shroud.  Each evening she placed the cage on the concrete step leading down to the garden, and the whole thing would reverberate in a tinny clang.  I remember the little bird would begin its mechanical dance as its pupils tightened from the dark interiors of the living room, its pink, wiry legs wrapped tightly around the bars of the cage. Popo kept the crickets in an old mayonnaise jar covered by mesh and held in place by a cracking pink rubber band. When she reached her hand in, half the insects would scatter to the far corners, while the others swarmed in a frenzy toward her fingers, their little legs moving in unison like eyelashes. 

These were the instruments of their demise: my grandmother's fingers—covered in sunspots and seemingly fleshless—a semi-sharp knife also used to split loquats from the yard, and a rusty paperclip that had witnessed the same ritual evening after evening, for longer than I could have known then.

When one unlucky fellow was chosen, popo prepared the cricket for the canary, so hungry now that it would spring its yellow body against the walls of the cage near my grandmother’s crouching figure. The chosen sacrifice was held with its shiny thorax facing up, its head held tightly between the thumb and forefinger to prevent biting, and its legs moving quickly through the air like a bicyclist.  There was a precision to the way my grandmother held the knife, the same way I her hold it to clean the butterfish-- and her slice into the cricket's segmented shell was always unwavering.  There was an instant of slowed movement as the green innards spilled out, then inevitably, stillness.  When the cricket was finally prepared, it was impaled on the paper clip and hung near the top of the cage, while the bird watched hungrily from the side.  It's been years now and grandmother has since been buried.  But clear as day I remember the quickness of the canary, its joy at this prized devouring, the flash of the knife as my grandmother struggled to stand up from her position, and wiped the blade clean against her sleeve.
- Stephanie

Red tail hawks are native flyers and can still be seen roosting on our San Francisco skyscrapers from time to time. They're also responsible for controlling San Francisco's peculiarly explosive pigeon population (another SF phenomenon!). Red Tail hawks have been known to pick off a Telegraph Hill parrot here and there too.

The first breeding pair of Great Blue Herons at Stow Lake appeared in 1993 (no one knows why they picked that spot) but since then they've come back year after year and from that one pair a colony of about 50 birds or so has made it home.

Native coyotes populate Golden Gate Park and the Presidio. Like other native species, they're populations were driven down by human impact, but they've seen a surge in population and there's been a recent spate sightings. A few months ago a big brouhaha erupted when park officials shot two of them after they allegedly attacked a pair of dogs.

The there is the native plant/animal lobby. In recent years the Chinese mitten crab has been a big focus of their ire. This species arrived in San Francisco clinging to the bottoms of Asian commercial shipping vessels and have since boomed in the Bay and estuary, out-competing native species and becoming, like a dandelion, a true "weed".
The tarantula mating season on Mount Diablo happens every fall on Mount Diablo. Thousands of tarantulas emerge from their burrows and break their nocturnal habits to roam the paths and hiking trails, looking for some action.


Golden Gate National Recreation Area

Nature in the City

California Native Plant Society

Marine Mammal Center

Golden Gate Raptor Observatory

California Academy of Sciences



Commissioned by: SFMOMA, organized by Frank Smigiel, Associate Curator, Public Programs, SFMOMA

Local animal expert consultants: MIchelle Koo, California Academy of Sciences (salamander); Allen Fish, Golden Gate Raptor Observatory (falcon); Alan S. Hopkins, Past President of Golden Gate Audubon Society (quail); Ann Bauer, The Marine Mammal Center (sea lion)

Animal workshop leaders: Alice Wu & Moriah Carlson, Feral Childe (clothing workshop); Carson Bell, California Library of Natural Sounds (sound workshop); Terre Parker & Taira Restar, Anna Halprin's Sea Ranch Collective (movement workshop); Kendyll Naomi Pappas & Eugenie Howard-Johnston, 826 Valencia (writing workshop)

Graphic design of identity and printed materials by: PS New York