Gated Community

Oh, I see, I thought you meant Bill Gates.

Sunday afternoon Katarina the beauteous stage manager gives me the slip (clever girl), but off I go anyway to sneak down the alleyways and fly down the highways of Central Park, where festive orange holds sway for another couple of weeks. The Stodgy and the Theoretical love and hate Christo and Jeanne-Claude‘s The Gates installation with gusto and venom. But why? I think both camps, the bitter haters and the ecstatic lovers, are out of their minds.

That’s what you get when you ask opinions in February, a month when everyone north of Asheville is simply dysfunctionally bonkers without realizing it. The Gates are neither visionary nor sacrilegious. They’re a bit silly and flat-out fun, kind of kooky and without semantic content. They look a little like this and a little like that, but at heart they’re set dressing. They neither redeem the world nor shame it. It is, yes, a colossal frittering of money that near as I can tell (a) never belonged to you in the first place and therefore is none of your business, and (b) looks to pay off plenty well for its principals. If I had 7,500 of these things sitting around, I’d want to put them up in the Park as well. They cry out for barbecue and Citronella candles, and like ‘em or lump ‘em they make a chilly day feel warmer. I say they’re uplifting, and cool.

And this, above all else, is irrefutable: they sure are orange.

I wish they were bigger. I wish — picture this — I wish they were each 40 feet tall. Wow! I wish I could camp out in Sheep Meadow and wake up with sunrise peeking through the saffron fringe. I wish I could parasail over and look down on the orange capillaries reaching through the trees; I wish someone would dolly a camera down the paths and show the film at high guttering speed. I wish there was a rave in the middle of it, like when I lived in Italy and some guy put a light show and DJ’s into a marble quarry for a dance party (they weren’t called raves back then). I’m seeing the Gates lambent under strobes and vivid by laserlight. I wish I were goofy enough to ride around in one of those tour trolleys, though I’d probably mostly hate it and want to be back out climbing the cold rocks. I wish I could run really fast through a long throat of them in a flapping wind to hear them slap and cough and roar. I wish they smelled like pumpkin and roast turkey, I wish they were food and we could eat them when the show is done. I wish there was a Renaissance Faire going on amid the monochrome pageantry.

All of this curls in my head without particular importance, just random threads of a Sunday afternoon. That makes the Gates a happy success, in my book. The sun edges down, and I watch the city watch the Gates, watch the cameras, watch the cute Gates girl looking important in her Gates vest, strutting around curious admiring guys. North of Sheep Meadow a curtain tangles up over itself and New York rushes around it in a protective burst of helpful yelling. A Gates guy with a telescoping pole tipped with a tennis ball prods and teases on his tiptoes while we serenade him. “Left! Left! You can’t see it from there, but no, push it — yes — right! Go right! Harder!” When the snag is free we all applaud; nodding, he smiles, victorious. And I see some of the subtext: the Gates is a narrative.

Woman with English Accent: I don’t get it.
Husband, who does get it: What’s to get?
Woman: Well this. What’s it supposed to be?
Husband: It’s not supposed to be anything. It’s just this.
Woman: Well that’s stupid. Why bother.
Husband: It’s different, eh?
Woman: Bet they’re having themselves quite a larf right now, them Christos.

Pictures next week if they come out — I’m still using film. Yes, I know, I know. I’m shopping in the Olympus C-series, if you’d like to buy me one, otherwise we’re waiting for the film to be done.

About Linus

The man behind the curtain. But couldn't we get a nicer curtain?
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3 Responses to Gated Community

  1. Harvey says:

    Mostly I think it would’ve looked better in the fall, with some nice red & orange leaves in the background.

    As for it being publicly funded, I’ll just say that I disagree with your assessment of that aspect’s o.k.-ness & leave it at that :-)

  2. Linus says:

    Christo & Jeanne-Claude never use public funding funding for their art, Harvey. They don’t even accept volunteer labor; everyone working on the maintenance of The Gates is paid. Over the history of their projects, they say, only three people have successfully avoided being paid for their work, and in those three cases the artists donated the salary money to appropriate charities.

  3. DarkoV says:

    Had a chance to see Central Park a la Orange this past weekend. It’s exactly as you described it. Your phrase regarding “wish(ing) they (the Gates) smelled like pumpkin and roast turkey” kept bouncing around in my head. There were the sights, the sounds, all that was missing was the smells. Everyone seemed so happy (and foreign). It was freezing. It was blindingly sunny. It was a lot of fun.
    Great concise review!

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