Wish I Were There

by phil on Saturday Feb 12, 2005 12:13 PM

Man, if you're in New York, check out the gates of Christo and Jeanne-Claude in Central Park. Read more about The Gates here. Thankfully, there is the tagweb of flickr for the less fortunate. click here to view pix from this massive public art installation in New York.

here are more pix from my favorite photoblogger.

Of course I don't have the vantage point of being there... but, here is my opinion.

I was expecting the fabrics to be solid, not a group of stripes. Plus, the orange metallic part of the gates reminds me of raw construction. My first reaction: I am at the car wash. Look at this pict in particular.

The thing most on my mind is the physics of it all. What if these things fell down? Thus, I look closely at the feet, which I adore. These little slate-black block boots are like charcoal pastels. They're so small, which makes me wonder how can they support that much weight? But you know they must, and therefore there is this tension between their perceived weight and their actual weight. Like, I keep imagining these gates falling with the slightest gust of wind, but I know they won't.

Mayor Bloomberg's the smartest one of all. First, the Christo guys are footing the whole bill. Second, the installation has minimal impact on the environment (no holes in the ground). So this is costing Bloomberg nothing. And Bloomberg, the wisest art-curator, said, "well, I don't know if they're good or not, but it'll get people talking." So true. Look how much I just blathered about it, and all I have are these crappy flickr pix. In the end, this is good for New York and for art.

The name of the installation is The Gates, Central Park, New York, 1979-2005. Twenty-six years it has taken to secure all the permits and satisfy the civic interests. The dates claim that The Gates involve not only the orange carwash, but its long history. The usage of dates works with Christo's and Jeanne-Claude's language of pregnancy:

What are the chances of delays? Christo and Jeanne-Claude have performed political, technical and financial miracles to create all their projects, including The Gates, but they have no power over Mother Nature and the weather. They trust that their planning and care will find The Gates arriving as a baby does, showing up in it's own beloved time, when it is ready. (ref)

Although Christo and Jeanne-Claude's have invested so much time and effort in the project, they were reticent to discuss "The Gates."

"It's very difficult," explained Christo. "You ask us to talk. This project is not involving talk. It's a real, physical space. It's not necessary to talk. You spend time, you experience the project." (ref)

A baby's arrival involves the 9-month term when the baby's being cooked underneath the dermis of the mother's belly. The baby's completely invisible, it doesn't have an exact release date, and it's not even guaranteed that it will come out. And when it comes out, you don't talk about it like you would a piece of wood that has already been there. You rejoice its arrival (after sooo much time) and you experience it. Christo's languages frames the project in organic terms. Often you will find organisms that take forever to cook and ferment, until in one small slice of time they peak.

Here is another of Christo's work:

Christo, Surrounded Islands, Biscayne Bay, Greater Miami, Florida, 1980-1983. Pink woven polypropylene fabric, 6.5 million sq. ft.

Christo's framing makes The Gates and Surrounded like flowers blooming. When you see them, you think of a time when those installations did not exist except in the imagination of the artists and in permit-hell bureaucracy. Then there is a succinct point when they bloom, and poof they are gone. The Gates therefore, are like a presence.

But surely, there must be other time-released art. A crude artist could just create a contraption that does something special after fuel is expended over twenty years. This would be interesting only as an abstraction. In Christo's work, on the other hand, the time-release is integrated with a natural, not artificial, resistance. The bureaucratic barriers become the twenty-year fuel expended to release this art. Metaphorically, the time it took for The Gates to arrive is an approximate measure of how long it takes for humanity to blossom out these kind of works.

This also reminds me of Ankrom's work:

In his Guerilla Public Service, Ankrom describes an underpass that many drivers had despised for its obvious lack of guidance. Rather than trying to get Caltrans to help, he fixed it himself. The process took him about a year, which included getting the right Pantone colors and the right Caltrans uniform to establish credibility. Ankrom had to find the optimal time of day when he would be the least likely to be disturbed. It took him about a year to set up and it looks pretty dangerous.

Both Ankrom and Christo view the public hive as a canvas. But, unlike graffiti artists who vandalizes in defiance of the public, these artists work within the system. Managing the public beast is an art in of itself.

One thing that makes art art is its rarity. The Renaissance masters works were great partly because their work was one-in-a million. Even pedestrian art criticism factors in effort as a proxy for rarity. When my dad criticizes a Jackson Pollock, he says that "this required no skill." He wants to be impressed, show me something amazing. My dad is also a perrenial entrepreneur, and so he would appreciate the financial aspects of The Gates. Christo is footing the $21 million bill, with the expectation to recoup costs through selling prints, models, and other goodies. The business risks involved make the event even more rare. Christo's babies are one-in-a-million, and for that reason, I wish I were there.

More Christo:


Bob said on February 12, 2005 3:46 PM:

I like these guys, who do their own projects. Christo's great, but I'd rather build something myself.

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