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LFQ3.2 – Haeg, Animal Estates

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In its first iteration at the 2008 Whitney Biennial, Animal Estates summoned species that lived in Manhattan’s oak–hickory forest four hundred years ago to return to the island. Fritz Haeg nestled custom-built dwellings—a sunning platform for the Eastern mud turtle, a hollow tree trunk for the bobcat, and tiny holes for the mason bee—into the museum’s surfaces, sidewalks, and sculpture court. Twelve New York–based artists composed “Animal Scores” that encouraged visitors to move like barn owls or bald eagles. Haeg has since reinvented the project for several other cities; the ninth version is currently taking place at a seabed turned industrial port in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. The field guide included in Landfill Quarterly Issue 3 was produced in 2008 for Version 6.0 in Utrecht, where accommodations included a feeding station for the red admiral butterfly, a rooftop nestbox for the common swift, a compost pile for the European grass snake, and a small pond for the green frog. At Utrecht’s Casco Office for Art, Design and Theory, local animal experts taught lessons on struggling populations and proposed ways to help. The amphibian expert observed, “If you look into the eyes of a regular toad, you see pure gold,” and suggested keeping a messy garden. Animal Estates anthropomorphizes and celebrates its animal clients. It works to carve out safe havens in already denuded areas, while demonstrating that species-rich sites do not necessarily look like national parks; backyards and alleyways are also places for coexistence, and small modifications can turn them into havens.