No one's going to remember this but sometime in late December, a few of the writers here at OUTSIDELEFT were asked to make their predictions for 2005. Lamont mentioned something about robots finally earning their keep in the household or something like that. Alex V. Cook predicted the demise of either U2 or REM - both of which would be welcomed with open arms now. I called Christo's Gates in New York's Central Park as one of the big events of the New Year.
I know what you're thinking, "He played it safe." But I know what works with the yokels as well as the mainstream media and Christo's (and his wife Jeanne-Claude, although I think he just tacks her name onto his projects because she's such a pain in the ass) Gates has "Safe For The Entire Family" written all over it. The Gates is the kind of thing that gets on the front cover of conservative newspapers, in the first five minutes of your local news broadcast and out of the duck-lipped mouths of 40-something soccer moms who like to discus things like The Gates because they think it keeps them tethered to "the arts."
There's no way The Gates was going to go unnoticed by the media, especially not in this climate where radio hosts are getting fired for saying bitch and hell and naked shoulder blades during Monday Night Football are cause for the extreme fundamentalists to run down main street with their arms waving above their heads while they scream about the "final days."
Was I right? What do you think? I live in Orange County, California and I can't pick up a newspaper without reading about The Gates and I'm not talking about an article in the arts and entertainment section of the paper, I'm talking front page with a big old color photo of New York tourists in knit caps and parkas made for the Midwest winters as opposed to New York winters which, if you've been to Manhattan during the fall while wearing poorly made outwear, you'll know there is a difference. And I almost forgot those orange sheets (they insist on calling them saffron, but don't let them fool you, they're orange) whipping in the brisk Central Park wind, they of course are the most prominent in every photograph.
But are The Gates art? Nope. I mean, sure, I can appreciate the idea of it being art and I even detect the slight - very slight - undertones of Dadaism. But when all is said and done, Christo's Gates are really just a spectacle, not art and spectacles are usually nothing more than novelties.
So let's break the installation down. Yes, the bright orange cuts a bold and liberating swath through the grays of Harlem and the symmetry of the arches are interesting, but what's more important here? Tourism? Billionaire Mayor Bloomberg is estimating that his city is going to fleece the out-of-towners for just a bit over $80 million over the 16 days The Gates are going to be up. Not bad, especially since Christo claims he ponied up the entire $21 million it took to make this little ego-stroking monstrosity of his happen.
You don't think Christo's ego had anything to do with this? Let's unpack this: Christo took on a 26-year battle with New York City and the Central Park board members and every time he presented the powers that be with a proposal for The Gates, the Bulgarian was turned down. This was the same artist who in 1991, installed 20-foot-tall umbrellas on small mountains (1,340 blue ones in Japan and 1,760 yellow ones just south of Bakersfield, California) and thanks to his faulty engineering, witnessed one umbrella from each installation fall on top of and murder some poor schlub who probably got dragged there by their pretentious girlfriend. And what did Christo do? Nothing, there was no formal apology. After all, someone has to suffer for art.
So are The Gates Christo's Moby Dick? A spectacle that took him a third of his life -- 26 years -- to realize? My guess is yes, this was an ego driven project, he couldn't have done it for New York as most chiseled New Yorkers have stated that the Christo's little vanity project is nothing more than a nuisance.
One female jogger I saw on CNN who was interviewed about the installation said she was going to pray for snow for the next two weeks in hopes of keeping peoplel away from her running paths while a man interviewed for a recent LA Times piece (it's fifth piece within the last month) said he stopped picking up his dog's feces when he takes his dog with him on his morning constitutional figuring the stinky landmines would keep the out-of-towners at bay.