so, after reading up on the Gates
project, a new yorker article, a caa
conference speech, and a christo interview from the 80's when they first came up with this idea(around the the time of the surrounded islands
project) i came up with about 3 pages of my answers...thinking that is a bit too much to post but will post a little of how i answered those questions :
on ethics, aesthetics, and politics.
Aesthetically, I find The Gates phenomenally moving and provocative. The tactile aspect of the human scaled thresholds make it appear to be just the intimate experience that they project it to be. Ethically and politically, I’m not sure it really conflicts with my beliefs per say but I think there are critical issues at play that should always be addressed. I do take major issue with the environmental impacts of some of his projects but not neccessarily this one. If the very idea of the GATES did conflict with my ethics and politics, there’s a long list of things in front of this one. It is contradictory to take issue with this project without taking issue with capitalist society in general. While, I do take some issue with capitalism, I am an active participant in the maintenance of this system everyday. ..its not so easy to separate the two. I think Christo says it best himself when he responds to the following comment by the interviewer:
“…an aspect of the projects has to do with the way that they short-circuit the normal consumerism in art. Collectors cannot buy a project. There is some kind of exploitation of the situation of capitalism, which is the accumulation of capital. You’re not making any money from the project directly, you’re spending tremendous amounts of money to do it (from the sale of drawings of
the project), and in the end, what you have is the realization of the project and the perception of theat project and of you as an artist, by the public. In the normal sense of enterprise in a capitalistic system, you should end up with a huge sum of capital, which you don’t have.”
by saying, “…at a basic level, there is a subversive dimension to the projects, and this is why I have so many problems. All the opposition, all the criticisms of the project are basically that it puts in doubt all the acceptable operations of the system that we should follow normally. If the project was a movie set for Hollywood and we spent a million dollars for the movie, there would be no opposition, they could even burn the islands to be filmed and there would be no problems. The “irrationality” of the project disturbs and angers the perception of a capitalist society”. In otherwords, if he were doing this to make more money, it'd be cool.
Now the complicated part, “worth”. If we are thinking fiscally, first of all since it is not coming out of any public pocket its not hurting anything fiscally. As a matter of fact, it appears that the city of NY stands to gain millions of dollars (mostly in tourism) from this project…not to mention the MOMA
show that has already started designing totebags and souvenir scarves (that the artists will not benefit from by choice). There are sooo many ways to assess worth on this project. My man is employing thousands of people in the production of this thing…that is certainly valuable. Now, if the city were paying for it, I think that brings up a whole separate issue. I am emphatically in favor of public funds for public art, I think a question of scale and context to other public spending would be a major consideration though. I think the best solution is combined public and private funding. But it gets back to who and how one defines worth and i think there are very few things that people can unanimously and universally agree on as "worthy"...if everyone unanimously believed that homelessness was the single most critical social issue to solve, it would be solved...the wealthy and the philanthropic community could take care of that without a single public dollar ever being spent. However we all know its much more complex than that, people spend their money on what they think is important, and many of them don't do it just to benefit themselves, they believe that that 'thing' benefits the larger world community in some way. Art cannot just be thought of fiscally, if it were, there wouldn't be any art. Quality of life has to be a consideration. My memory of seeing/experiencing the Gates 40 years from now is priceless. I wonder what NY is going to be doing with the MILLIONS of dollars in tourism related spending that they receive as a result of this privately funded project. I would hope it would benefit the people of NY who need it most.
there are socialist underpinnings prevailing in christo and jean-claude's work according to them anyway. they are upholding olmstead's "vision" in the sense that this work is completely accessible. though...there seems to be this strange sense of individualist self importance in their unyielding efforts to control
everything related to their work...they don't see it that way. It seems more about delivering an unfiltered truth about what and how we value.