A River Runs Under It
January 28, 2011 8:17 AM   Subscribe

Over the River is the newest environmental art installation proposed by Christo and Jeanne-Claude. As usual, there is some opposition. Previously on MeFi, The Gates. Jeanne-Claude, the female half of this team, died in 2009.
posted by hermitosis (76 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
Christo, what an artist.
posted by chavenet at 8:19 AM on January 28, 2011 [7 favorites]


Having suffered through the massive disappointment that was The Gates, I'm gonna go with 'it' ain't worth it'.
posted by spicynuts at 8:20 AM on January 28, 2011


I have to agree with The gates being pretty "meh." But, this new project looks about a bajillion times cooler. Just thinking about the possibilities of the sound of the river beneath the cover is intriguing.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:24 AM on January 28, 2011


I've been applying for permits to wrap Christo in mylar for two months in 2013.
posted by chasing at 8:26 AM on January 28, 2011 [5 favorites]


(Does that joke get made every time there's a Christo post? I'm going to assume it does.)
posted by chasing at 8:27 AM on January 28, 2011


I clearly remember going to see the Umbrellas when I was ten, and it was awesome. I vote for worth it.
posted by CheeseLouise at 8:34 AM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is a little different from the Gates: a 42-mile stretch of the Arkansas river in southern Colorado supports a lot -- a LOT -- of wildlife that will be directly impacted by this project. Lots of birds depend on that ecosystem for food and refuge, particularly raptors. There are also lots of ungulates in that area that depend on the river and the surrounding environment for shelter and food, and whose feeding and migration will be disrupted by an unusual amount of human activity in the area. Who knows how it will affect the fish and insects. This is two-year-long project. It seems to me like a singularly bad idea. Let's hope the BLM nixes this.
posted by Spinneret at 8:35 AM on January 28, 2011 [13 favorites]


I loved the gates. We could use that splash of color right about now.
posted by smackfu at 8:45 AM on January 28, 2011


(That waterfall thing though, that was a disappointment.)
posted by smackfu at 8:45 AM on January 28, 2011


Why exactly is he doing this in the total middle of nowhere?
posted by paisley henosis at 8:47 AM on January 28, 2011


The waterfall thing wasn't done by Jeanne-Claude and Christo. I did like the gates though.

This also wouldn't be the first time that Christo's art has disrupted animal life.
posted by schmod at 8:49 AM on January 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Spinneret: Who knows how it will affect the fish and insects. This is two-year-long project. It seems to me like a singularly bad idea.

To be fair: the umbrellas actually killed two people.
posted by paisley henosis at 8:56 AM on January 28, 2011


There's little development along that stretch of the river, but there's a LOT of rafting/kayaking/etc. It's pretty much THE whitewater rafting location for most tourist rafting companies.

I did a 1-day out of Vail in '94, loved it. The drive back was pretty sweet too- scenic, with a bunch of hippies, and Lyle Lovett on the tape deck.
posted by notsnot at 8:56 AM on January 28, 2011


All of these links, except the opposition link, are doubles.
posted by Brent Parker at 9:02 AM on January 28, 2011


Heh. This references my first and only FPP ever, from like 6 years ago. That was weird to see.
posted by interrupt at 9:03 AM on January 28, 2011


Why exactly is he doing this in the total middle of nowhere?

I'm guessing because Southern CO's mainly farming/ranching-based economy (which also relies relatively heavily on tourism) is feeling pretty skint at the moment, and the authorities there are more likely to grant the necessary permissions to frak up the environment (albeit "temporarily") due to (a) financial desperation, and (b) mostly conservative state legislators. Christo et. al. had already successfully installed the Valley Curtain in Rifle, CO, back in the '70's.

Also, possibly, the artist and his cohorts have an unrealistic perception of culture, space, environment, and economy in the American West.
posted by Spinneret at 9:04 AM on January 28, 2011


Rivers: beautiful enough as they are.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 9:15 AM on January 28, 2011 [5 favorites]


Can we just have a script that makes an FPP about Christo trying to drape something in fabric every two years? That way nobody would have to go to the effort of writing it up.

The guy seriously needs a new schtick.
posted by spitefulcrow at 9:21 AM on January 28, 2011


I just don't get it. What was the big deal about The Gates? just some dude and his cat putting up gates in the dining room. Is that Aht?
posted by Gungho at 9:21 AM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Why exactly is he doing this in the total middle of nowhere?

Wasn't Running Fence also kind of in the middle of nowhere?

Christo's work is as much about its context as it is about what he installs. And he selects his locations as carefully as he can. For me, living in eastern WA, The Gates might as well have been in the middle of nowhere for how accessible it was to me.
posted by hippybear at 9:22 AM on January 28, 2011


This is two-year-long project.

No it isn't. It's a TWO-WEEK installation, that's been in the planning for 2 years.

And from Christo's website, re: wildlife impact:
How will Over The River affect wildlife and the environment?

Christo and Jeanne-Claude have always considered wildlife and the natural environment to be among the Arkansas River Valley’s greatest resources. The artists bring to Over The River a documented and unwavering commitment to conservation and are dedicated to avoiding or minimizing all potential impacts related to noise, vegetation, air quality and water quality during the construction and removal phases, as well as during the two-week viewing period. In fact, the artists already altered their artistic design, installation schedule and the viewing period to be sensitive to wildlife and the environment. The construction and viewing periods have been carefully scheduled around breeding and nesting seasons. As an added precaution, construction buffer zones will be created near potentially active eagle nests and around designated sheep areas. Click here to learn more about wildlife and Over The River.
posted by hippybear at 9:25 AM on January 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Since Christo & Jean-Claude (R.I.P) pay for the entire project, including all associated costs e.g. the Environmental Impact Statement, whether the project is "worth it" is, from a purely economic standpoint, up to them.

As far as the environmental consequences, the draft of the EIS reported many potentially serious types of adverse impact but also many proposed "mitigation" options. (wikipedia). So there may well be problems, but they are known insofar as they are predictable, and Christo and Jean-Claude have a record of doing as much as possible to minimize negative consequences.

Rivers: beautiful enough as they are.

"Beautiful": problematic word.

(I love Christo and Jean-Claude and everything they've done and hope they get to do this, but if the opposition wins, so be it. They've always accepted defeat gracefully albeit never given up; IIRC some projects have been completed thirty or forty years after conception).
posted by generalist at 9:30 AM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


"minimizing all potential impact" there's the key phrase... Artists shouldn't be thinking as to how to "minimize" the impact on the environment, they should 100% avoid all impact on the environment.
posted by HuronBob at 9:31 AM on January 28, 2011


Christo and Jeanne-Claude gave a pretty compelling talk in Denver about the project and the aesthetic they have/had been working with for about a half a century. Sure, there are some unknowns in site-specific work, but this guy doesn't have too many chances left, and he's been working on it for quite a while. I vote yes, even though I think the work will be a lot more compelling for the kayakers than for the rubber-necking drive-by viewers.
posted by kozad at 9:34 AM on January 28, 2011


Chalk another vote for "loved some of their other stuff, but don't fuck with the fishes."
posted by Theta States at 9:35 AM on January 28, 2011 [2 favorites]




"
posted by Jorus at 9:35 AM on January 28, 2011


Artists shouldn't be thinking as to how to "minimize" the impact on the environment, they should 100% avoid all impact on the environment.

If all artists everywhere only did art that had absolutely zero effect on the environment, I wonder how much art we'd have at all? No more bronze statues, a lot of paints would have to be removed from circulation... Oh, and no more taking any works of art to the market.
posted by hippybear at 9:37 AM on January 28, 2011


No it isn't. It's a TWO-WEEK installation, that's been in the planning for 2 years.

The installation schedule suggests that the construction period will be >26 months long, and the "viewing period" is planned for two weeks.

I don't mean to be contentious about this. I see that Christo has planned to mitigate environmental impact by reducing noise and minimizing disruption of wildlife. I just think that, on a practical level, there's no way to execute this project without a significant negative environmental impact, even if all of the proposed mitigation procedures are followed to the letter.

I lived in this area for many years, so I'm a little sensitive about it. I do see value in the artistic vision, just not enough to outweigh the environmental costs. Per l33tpolicywonk: Rivers: beautiful enough as they are.
posted by Spinneret at 9:37 AM on January 28, 2011


Artists shouldn't be thinking as to how to "minimize" the impact on the environment, they should 100% avoid all impact on the environment.

That would entail being dead.
posted by generalist at 9:41 AM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well, Spinneret, if you're really that bothered by it, go voice your concerns to the official channels. He hasn't been given approval for the project yet, and I'm sure if enough people who share your concerns speak up, he won't be given it.

Personally, I find his projects fascinating, and would hope to see at least one or two more of them happen before he's not around to do them anymore.
posted by hippybear at 9:43 AM on January 28, 2011


It would be pretty cool to float under that entire thing in an inner tube.
posted by orme at 9:46 AM on January 28, 2011


All of these links, except the opposition link, are doubles.

Not true, the main link is completely new. The supplemental links (naturally) refer people to previous MeFi posts about the artists.
posted by hermitosis at 9:50 AM on January 28, 2011


"minimizing all potential impact" there's the key phrase... Artists shouldn't be thinking as to how to "minimize" the impact on the environment, they should 100% avoid all impact on the environment.

I take it you despise Spiral Jetty?

I can't stand all the Christo hate that bubbles up whenever a project is coming to fruition. They spend decades putting a project together so you better believe they consider everything, or else they are forced to consider. "The Gates" didn't just happen, they were fighting 20 years or more for that. And the biggest myth that never goes away is "Wow, this is what we're spending money on?" Nobody seems to understand that nobody spends a single cent on their projects EXCEPT the artists themselves. And I don't know what people were expecting (re: The Gates) but I thought it was amazing. Have lived here all my life and never saw so many people enjoying the park. Sure there were the ignorant fucking morons who thought every Gate would have a painting on it! Hahaha, but whatever, the orange fabric looked amazing against the snow and if you didn't like it, it was gone before you knew it. I would LOVE to ride the river underneath a canopy of fabric and I'm sure many people will do this if the project is a go. Which I hope it will be.
posted by ReeMonster at 9:52 AM on January 28, 2011 [5 favorites]


orme: "It would be pretty cool to float under that entire thing in an inner tube"

Better be one *hell* of a tube!

Guess I better book a float now....
posted by notsnot at 9:59 AM on January 28, 2011


The guy seriously needs a new schtick.

Maybe he should call that a wrap....
posted by chavenet at 10:00 AM on January 28, 2011


Did anybody else skim this and think Over The River is the name of a new martial arts action flick with Jean Claude van Damme?
posted by circular at 10:20 AM on January 28, 2011


It makes sense to have a very careful environmental assessment done for a project like this in such an environmentally sensitive area. Fingers crossed that the project will work out and that it gets installed.

I've never been lucky enough to see a Christo installation live, but I remember how giddily happy I was from just seeing the video and pictures of The Gates. I've been trying to figure out why I developed such a strong love for the colour orange over the past few years, and it seems likely that this project alone was what shifted me.
posted by maudlin at 10:22 AM on January 28, 2011


I remember driving out on an incredibly stormy day to see the Umbrellas with my mom. I had sort of made fun of the whole thing until I actually stood there looking at it live. It was incredible and breathtaking, and made me see the entire natural backdrop -- with which I was very familiar, having driven through it a zillion times -- in a completely different way. Trite as some people may have found it, I'll never forget it.
posted by OolooKitty at 10:35 AM on January 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


generalist: ""Beautiful": problematic word. "

Nope, not really.

Someone asking to throw red paint on the Mona Lisa as a new artistic work is fundamentally different from someone throwing red paint on a print of the Mona Lisa. There's only one Mona Lisa, it should be preserved, even at the loss of a new artistic statement. That segment of the Arkansas river, with its unique wildlife, landscape, etc, is the only one of it there is. Therefore, it deserves to be protected from the random whims of an artist.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 10:44 AM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Whew. The breath-taking waste of this project! 5+ miles of garbage generated!

I love art. I love large art, even! Spiral Jetty, Tilted Arc, Kapoor's recent Memory, these are all amazing pieces.

But to cover five miles of a river with plastic?! No. It's abhorrent. To claim there will be no environmental impact from this is ridiculous. To go out of the way to foul an area which very few people will even see simply to "make art" is selfish and arrogant.

The Gates was at least in an urban area! But the waste... and the message is depressing... people will not enjoy natural things unless we wrap them in plastic!

There are two schools of thought about art. One is that it serves no social utility whatsoever and attempting to read any societal message into it is pointless. I think that's obviously false and I think one of the contexts you need to consider art is how it speaks to the great social issues of the day. It's very easy to see art in the past doing this, and somewhat harder to see it in the art of today - simply because we are there.

Look at how many works recently have to do with mass production, with hugeness, with showing off how big and many and wide the things that man can create are.

Now, I'm absolutely not against this in principle, although after the collapse these will be seen with hindsight as pointers to our problems. I find Anish Kapoor's work in general to be really inspirational, because of the audacity of its construction, and because of the tremendous effect of these great objects near your small human body. I think Spiral Jetty is a Great Work precisely because of the grace of its form, how well it harmonizes with its environment and how minimally disruptive it is of its environment considering its size - which was already damaged by man because that area was fouled before Smithson ever got to it.

But "A River Runs Under It" is just waste for waste's sake. It's more disposable crap. It's like a huge plastic bag over a river valley. It covers the sun and stops it from sparkling on the water. The piece does not appear to be informed by the specific river environment itself but is simply a generic thing that the artist would place over any river with a local community stupid enough to accept this eyesore.

They are intending to spend two years making it and a few weeks displaying it. It's arrogance, it's an affront to nature, it's simply ugly, and I'm completely against it in every way.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:44 AM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


I would worry about birds. They don't do well with rippling, flapping fabric. Can't fly through it, and big enough that it might frighten them away.

If it were up to me, the installation wouldn't be allowed to proceed without a small-scale test run (one or two panels, river width, 50 feet long or so) done by a team of behavioral scientists.
posted by caution live frogs at 10:49 AM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


I should clarify my ambiguity about the Tilted Arc controversy. While I believe this is a very strong piece, I am very much in sympathy with the people who used that plaza every day who arranged to get it removed.

The whole point of Richard Serra's work is that it is heavy and threatening, that you constantly fear that it will fall over and cause a disaster, the way that his pieces grimly eat sound in their vicinity. Lovely stuff - but completely inappropriate for a public place particularly one near a courtroom where people are listening to pretty grim stuff all day.

That Serra could sue to prevent his piece from being removed when the people who used that space quite reasonably refused to have it in their public environment speaks volumes for his massive, antisocial ego. He was paid a shitload of money, he delivered a piece that was inappropriate for the environment it was to be displayed in, they didn't even ask him for their money back, and he had the nerve to sue the city and no doubt cost me, a New York City taxpayer, a few bucks.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:57 AM on January 28, 2011


An affront to nature.. YOU need to get over YOURSELF.. and, dude, it's fabric, NOT plastic. So, speaking of waste, you just wasted all of that time whining about plastic.
posted by ReeMonster at 10:59 AM on January 28, 2011


I think it's also important to realize, this isn't going to be 6 miles of continuous fabric.
The eight distinct areas will total 5.9 miles of fabric panels, varying in length from 0.3 to 2.5 miles. They will be suspended 8 to 25 feet above the water, depending on the height of the banks. Between the waves of fabric panels, there will be a total of 36.1 miles of interruptions, leaving the river and natural landscape untouched. Each pause between fabric panel sections will vary in length from 0.7 to 15.5 miles.
posted by hippybear at 11:14 AM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


To be fair, I think it's a mesh fabric made out of some kind of polymer.

All the very strong words against this piece are making me think I should probably write my elected officials, casting my voice in favor of it.
posted by girih knot at 11:14 AM on January 28, 2011



... That segment of the Arkansas river, with its unique wildlife, landscape, etc, is the only one of it there is. Therefore, it deserves to be protected from the random whims of an artist.

I seriously doubt that the installation of this piece threatens the existence or any fundamental quality of that segment of the river.


There are two schools of thought about art...

Only two? Wow, this art stuff is way simpler than I thought!
posted by generalist at 11:16 AM on January 28, 2011


Here is a .pdf briefly outlining the mitigation measures they plan to use during the construction and exhibition of this project.
posted by hippybear at 11:17 AM on January 28, 2011


> An affront to nature.. YOU need to get over YOURSELF.

Personal insults are not actually a refutation of an argument, eh?

> and, dude, it's fabric, NOT plastic. So, speaking of waste, you just wasted all of that time whining about plastic.

Again, I urge you to be polite, particularly when it is likely you are wrong.

I read their entire site twice before I posted. I was particularly skeptical about the word "fabric".

Now, they never use any word other than fabric, but the material they are talking about is both transparent and reflective, and I'd have to assume that it isn't something that will rot easily, and strong enough to be suspended under its own weight across a river. So it is my conclusion that this "fabric" is at least in part plastic. Certainly, most every other Cristo project except The Umbrellas has relied on plastic as his wrapping or covering material - The Gates, most recently, used a "fabric" that was definitely mostly plastic.

If it turns out that this "fabric" it isn't, literally speaking, plastic, then you can amend my use of the word plastic to say, "Ultra-manufactured high-technology wasteful crap" if that makes it easier for you.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:19 AM on January 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


> I seriously doubt that the installation of this piece threatens the existence or any fundamental quality of that segment of the river.

For over two years, there are going to be construction crews all over that river. For over two years, it most certainly will change the fundamental quality of the river - that's the whole damned point.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:21 AM on January 28, 2011


I was particularly skeptical about the word "fabric".

Well, considering that the word fabric means something woven or knitted, I'm pretty sure that's an accurate statement of what the material will be. It won't be a sheet polymer, it will be woven or knitted polymer threads.

If something being made of plastic excluded that something from being fabric, then what the hell would you call that stuff that my rayon or polyester shirts are made of?
posted by hippybear at 11:30 AM on January 28, 2011


I've seen Christo speak (about this project, in part); and while I don't have the info to argue about the environmental impacts (though from what he described it didn't sound like two years of construction crews) I do want to make the point that Christo & Jean-Claude's art has always been more about the social, cultural, political and technological process of creating their installations than about 'enhancing the beauty' of a particular physical space. This is explicit in their fundraising and public engagements; for instance they sell off technical and legal documents to finance new works. Talking about the art is the art.
posted by soy bean at 11:34 AM on January 28, 2011


Being somewhat familar with the area, I am not a fan of this project.

No need to paint me as an ignorant art hater. I simply don't like the risk involved.
posted by the young rope-rider at 11:42 AM on January 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


But the waste...

The waste seems like a big deal to you, but literally every single scrap of The Gates were recycled. If artists are paying to have art materials manufactured and then those materials end up being transformed into other usable products, I don't see what's wasteful about that.
posted by hermitosis at 11:48 AM on January 28, 2011


I still have the swatch of orange fabric they were giving out at The Gates and it is definitely a fabric. Synthetic but woven, lightweight yet strong, and translucent but slightly reflective. Lots of "out-the-ass" talking in this thread no doubt. The two-years of prep for Over The River will be much like the extended prep for The Gates, which wasn't so invasive indeed and seemed extremely well-organized and worked out. And that's in a park with thousands upon thousands of visitors a DAY. Let's set aside the knee-JERK reactions and realize that nothing EARTH-SHATTERING will occur with regard to environment in this project. When you think about all of the pollution and mistreatment of nature across the country (even the toll of gas-powered vehicles and litter in National Parks for instance), I'm failing to see how this lark of an installation will create a dent, if any, in the long term for that relatively small stretch of a river, which will PUNCTUATED by covers (not fully entombed underneath like some maniacal greenhouse.) Sheesh.
posted by ReeMonster at 11:50 AM on January 28, 2011


hippybear: I have no problem in the slightest with a plastic being called "fabric"! I do, however, have a problem with being yelled at because I call this fabric "plastic" as someone did above.

The reason I was skeptical about the word is that my first question was "What is this fabric made of?" and I wasn't able to find a good answer on the site (now we know, however, that it is basically plastic).
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:51 AM on January 28, 2011


I'm pretty liberal in my interpretation of what constitues "art," but I've never bought into this "well, I'm going to wrap stuff in fabric..." thing. Getting dressed in the morning would be some sort of performance art, if we're goign to use Christo's logic.
posted by ironbob at 11:55 AM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


> When you think about all of the pollution and mistreatment of nature across the country (even the toll of gas-powered vehicles and litter in National Parks for instance), I'm failing to see how this lark of an installation will create a dent, if any, in the long term for that relatively small stretch of a river, which will PUNCTUATED by covers (not fully entombed underneath like some maniacal greenhouse.)

It is exactly because of all the pollution and mistreatment of nature that already exists that a piece like this is particularly offensive - because it seems to glorify the very worst of technological society.

As I indicated above, I'm by no means a Luddite in this area, but this work shows a lack of desire to harmonious with the existing landscape, and instead to have Cristo's usual "large sheets of plastic held by metal rods" aesthetic dominating it. This is one level up from billboards - the difference is that the product that is being advertised is Cristo.

To disrupt that landscape for two years for a two week show is offensive.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 12:01 PM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


I would say this beautiful scene seems more significant than pulling on another pair of boxer briefs and an undershirt, not to mention the staggering amount of bureaucratic red-tape and ass-kissing they have to do to get a project off the ground. Also, it's not performance art.
posted by ReeMonster at 12:04 PM on January 28, 2011


I understand the NIMBY position; Colorado is a state where 90% of the human habitation degrades the environment and will never be removed. I think most people here are used to human intervention being so awful that there is no possibility that anything created by humans could be enobling. It's no to everything.
If you haven't seen this documentary, check it out. The reactions of the construction workers who did the Valley Curtain are quite moving. It's clear to me that the reality of his work is actually better than the idea of his work. If you ever get the chance to hear hear him talk, do it. He's really an extraordinary person, as was Jean-Claude.
posted by Carmody'sPrize at 12:04 PM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


He read the entire web page twice and continues to spell the guys name wrong. Read it thrice!
posted by ReeMonster at 12:05 PM on January 28, 2011


and the message is depressing... people will not enjoy natural things unless we wrap them in plastic!

That was not "the message" of The Gates. It was nothing more than an invitation to look at our surroundings differently for a short time.

The whole point of Richard Serra's work is that it is heavy and threatening, that you constantly fear that it will fall over and cause a disaster, the way that his pieces grimly eat sound in their vicinity.

My own experience of Serra's Wake in Seattle doesn't fit your description at all. And I think the little kids I saw gleefully running around it playing hide and seek would disagree with you as well.

Look, if you don't like contemporary/conceptual art just say so, and move on.
posted by dnash at 12:10 PM on January 28, 2011


Look, if you don't like contemporary/conceptual art just say so, and move on.

Exactly. I stayed away from the Serra characterization but why not jump into that one as well. I've never talked to ANYONE who felt afraid that a Serra sculpture would fall over. Has anyone TRIED to push one over? I do all the time and they don't move at all! Hehe.
posted by ReeMonster at 12:31 PM on January 28, 2011


> not to mention the staggering amount of bureaucratic red-tape and ass-kissing they have to do to get a project off the ground.

The difficulty and expense of a project have no correlation to its value.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 12:33 PM on January 28, 2011


> Look, if you don't like contemporary/conceptual art just say so, and move on.

Look, if you can't read English, just say so, and move on.

I was very very clear about how much I liked contemporary and conceptual art, and how much I like Richard Serra in particular.

Read what I said about "Tilted Arc" in particular. Now respond to what I wrote, not things you make up.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 12:37 PM on January 28, 2011


(Oh, and there isn't a single bio of Serra that doesn't talk about something like "dangerous and oppressive" - did you know one of his works actually did fall and kill someone?)
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 12:39 PM on January 28, 2011


The Gates was at least in an urban area! But the waste... and the message is depressing... people will not enjoy natural things unless we wrap them in plastic!

Central Park? A natural thing? Bwahahahahahahaha!
posted by hippybear at 12:41 PM on January 28, 2011


There's a surprising amount of vitriol in this thread.

I take exception to the view that anyone who disagrees with the premise of this particular project must hate contemporary art, or even large-scale environmental installations in general. I thought The Gates and the Berower Park projects were transcendent, and many others of Christo and Jeanne-Claude's works are lovely.

As someone who has some background in environmental science and the specific ecology in southern CO, I have concerns about some of the design elements of this particular project. The area is home to ospreys, eagles, and other river-fishing birds whose habitat will be affected by the fabric. It was pointed out upthread that masses of fabric will not only be physically obstructive, but they're likely to make lots of noise in a windy environment (and southern CO is windy). In addition, increased human traffic will disrupt migratory patterns, as well as feeding patterns, of the native fauna, from rodents to charismatic megafauna like bighorn sheep and black bears, which are found in the region. Compared with, say, Central Park, Southern Colorado is extremely sparsely populated, and the wildlife there has not had the opportunity to adapt to the presence of construction vehicles or heavy traffic on roads or rivers. There are lots of legitimate environmental risks here. I am sure the BLM people and state-employed ecologists as well as private people who do environmental science in southern Colorado are assessing them, and I guess Christo will probably hear an earful about all of them. I am hopeful that he is making an honest attempt to address these risks, and, to all appearances, he is doing so. I hope that, if the project proceeds, it will proceed in a way that takes the fragile ecology of the region into account.

As someone who has an informed appreciation of the rarity and fragility of this landscape, I would rather see it undisturbed, and I do worry about the environmental costs of such a large-scale and invasive project, no matter how the artist should attempt to mitigate the damage. I also personally don't see any need to "enhance" this particular landscape, which I find sublime in its natural state; but I recognize that's just my own viewpoint.

I think Christo has visionary ideas, and I respect his art. I'm just not a fan of this project.
posted by Spinneret at 12:53 PM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


This project worries me, because I love that part of Colorado and I know it is so arid down there that the ecosystems are fragile and easily degraded. Deserts scar easily, and they stay scarred for a long time. Plants don't just grow back effortlessly the way they do in more humid places; topsoil that is washed away is just gone, not replaced by big thick mats of decaying leaves.

The place where Christo wants to install this piece is the sort of place where I try to walk carefully every time I get off a boat and onto the shore, and he's proposing to spend over two years drilling holes and clearing spaces there. I'm all for his work in urban places where the disturbances during the installation are, for the most part, social. At its best, his art seems to remind people of the beautiful sacred spaces they'd been walking past inattentively for years. But the southwestern rivers are already one of my sacred spaces, and it bothers me to think that Christo could go in there and scar that beautiful landscape just so he can shout at people, "Hey! Look at this landscape! Isn't it sacred?"
posted by colfax at 1:32 PM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Again, Spinneret... If you have what you feel are legitimate concerns... take them to the people who are looking at this project and have approval power over it. Stop it dead. You're apparently local enough that you could make a difference if you want to.
posted by hippybear at 1:34 PM on January 28, 2011


One last thing, then I'm going back to work.

Many here are framing this as Hippie Tree-Hugging Philistines vs. Enlightened Supporters of Art. In Colorado, you can bet that art has very little to do with the argument: it's Tourism Income vs. Conservation. Guess which side wins, historically speaking. (Hint: there's a donut shop at the top of Pikes Peak.) Maybe that's the point of Christo's project, but for many of us, the point's been taken, thanksverymuch.

This is a very emotional issue for those of us who have ties to Colorado. A local raft guide compared "Over the River" to "hanging porn in a church" [source].

Ironic, too, because most of the tourists who visit Colorado come, ostensibly, to see pristine wilderness, unspoilt by human industry (even that of a bona fide Artist).
posted by Spinneret at 1:35 PM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


A local raft guide compared "Over the River" to "hanging porn in a church"

Tourism income indeed!
posted by hippybear at 1:49 PM on January 28, 2011


One of my theater company's grand-prize contest winners dealt with conceptual art, and there was a rather thought-provoking comment in it about The Gates, during a conversation between two characters.

"You remember that whole Christo and Jean-Claude thing they did in Central Park? I remember when they were showing it on the news and I saw this one homeless guy in the background just staring up at one of those flags. Man, he must have been wondering how they could spend so much money just to decorate a park full of homeless people. Sure, covering Central Park in curtains may be great and beautiful and all that, but man, what if they had used those millions of dollars to buy every homeless person in the city brilliant orange suits? Then everyone would know who was homeless from blocks away and could take them out to eat. No one would be afraid to take them to a restaurant because the homeless would be the best-dressed people in the city."

It was an interesting spin on the whole "but if they had so much money to blow why not use it to feed people" criticism I often see used against questionable art projects (I've read people say this about the SPIDER-MAN musical, for instance). Because, yes, all the money put towards art could be put towards food and more "practical" things -- but the soul needs to be fed as well. It struck me that this character's orange-suit idea was kind of a perfect mesh between "productive use of money" and "artistic statement."

In this case -- perhaps instead of constructing the banners over a river, perhaps designing something that smaller animals could use as a series of bridges to cross over a major highway.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:10 PM on January 28, 2011


How long have they been working on this river one? I think I've heard about it/seen these pics for years. Not that new of a thing, I guess.

Count me in as another person who saw The Umbrellas and loved it. I don't really get the point of giant art (or at least the "wrap a thing in plastic" stuff), but sometimes C&JC could do something really cool to look at.
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:38 PM on January 28, 2011


Seeing that here in Boston that they needed to put windows in the 183-ft wide Zakim Bridge so that fish would have enough sunlight to navigate I'm thinking that an art instillation that covers 5 miles of the river is just not going to be good for the fishes.
posted by Rarebit Fiend at 7:30 AM on January 29, 2011


Wow. Sorry. Legitimate typo. Christo. Now we can be friends. *sheesh*
posted by ironbob at 8:25 PM on January 30, 2011


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