13 February 2005

[art, design] I Heart Christo and Jeanne-Claude

Those who pay attention to Da News will not that The Gates are open in Central Park today.

Many people have many opinions on Christo (and wife Jeanne-Claude, since some time now sharing co-credit with his). They leave a lot of people scratching their heads. And that's okay really.

Last term, in one of my art classes, I was priviledged (as many are during PCC courses) to get to see an exhibition at the Portland Art Museum, of pieces associated with Christo's wrapping of the Pont Neuf, in Paris, in 1985. Actually, the titles of his works belie something that's not oft touched upon, and I realized after getting to see the exhibit.

The title of the Pont Neuf work was The Pont Neuf Wrapped, Paris, 1975-1985. I'm touring the artist's website, christojeanneclaude.net, right now, and the works all have the element of time in them.

The pieces I saw at PAM cover all aspects of the execution and staging of the Pont Neuf, from who worked to when they did it, with photos and drawings and documents such as the invoice for the fabric used (which cost DM40,000 IIRC, and IPD). It had bits about when Christo and Jeanne-Claude met with Jaques Chirac, then Mayor of Paris. It hinted at the number of meetings and conferences required to satisfy the municipality's requirements. It, of course, covered the period of the mounting and showing of the work.

I realized then, that Christo and Jeanne-Claude not only asked us to consider a different slant on a familiar thing, or asked us to reflect on at 24-mile-long curtain (Running Fence in 1976, but also in managing to crystallize attention and energy on execting each work, made time itself an essential design element. The workers, the government officials, what they did, how and when, the reactions of the citizens during the process, are all part of the picture. They would not have happened without the presences of the wrapped forms, moreover, not without the activity about them.

When I looked at the exhibit at PAM, I got this four-dimensional sense that I sometimes get when I think of life horizontally as well as vertically. When I think of my own lifespan, I dwell sometimes on the mortality of a single arrow of time, but when I think me being aware of the eight, ten, twelve, and so on year-old Sams, they seem as real as they still exist, and perhaps in a certain way, they do. I almost think of it as a sort of immortality.

But I treat it as a mental perceptive exercise. It's important to step back from somthing like that, because if I don't, I get just a little bit weird...but not in the good way.

Anyway, to halt this digression, as I digested the objects on display I got a sense of time, and people involved, and people impacted, and people's impact on the work (on the Pont Neuf, river traffic was completely unhindered, the bridge was open for bridge traffic, and people walked on the fabric...the viewers impacted the work as the work impacted them). The fourth (time) and fifth (web of people?) dimensions suddenly unfolded and even though I wasn't there, I was at the center of the crystalline web. It became perceptable, if not tangible.

Christo and Jeanne-Claude teach us to connect through a different reality back to this one. Other artists may say or think they use time as an elementt in thier work; this artist actually does, and it's hard to imagine they aren't a little aware of it.

This is why Christo and Jeanne Claude are important.

How have The Gates affected you?

Those New Yorkers don't know how lucky they are.

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