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Mar 01 2006

The Wednesday Assortment


Stingray, Holgafied

To all the patriarchy-blamers who have emailed me over the past couple of weeks and gotten bupkis in response: I have read your letters, and I really, truly appreciate them, but I admit it. I’m swamped. I’m hopelessly behind. I will never catch up. Uncle. I’m really sorry. Clean slate, what?

To Soph in France: thanks very much for the book.

Trackbacks titled by WordPress can sometimes provide a cheap laugh, the way they append the blog name to the post title. Take this one which showed up today on the polygamy post from the other day: Incest is a family value at Pandagon. It’s like fortune cookie fortunes. “Now is the time to make circles with mints, do not haste any longer—IN BED!” And, since this post is now tracking back a trackback, I expect the infinite trackback loop will blow up the world shortly.

There’s an exhibit of Christo drawings at the tiny downtown gallery loftily named Austin Museum of Art. The drawings themselves are pretty objects, but to the concept of Christo’s public “art” I say “pah!” Say you saved up for ten years for your trip to Paris, and when you finally arrive you zip over to the Pont Neuf, only discover that the storied landmark has been wrapped in hideous burlap by that arrogant knob Christo. Unto thee I say verily, no bridge, island, tree, river, or building has ever been improved in the slightest by Christo’s annoying fetish for giant shrouds. Why has no one stopped him?

Fortunately
, Norbizness strikes a counterbalancing blow for truth and beauty when he conducts a useful lesson on using the adverb objectively, and then–as if that weren’t delightful enough!– invites readers to kvetch about their own most reviled language abuses (Guess. What. Mine. Is.).

56 comments

  1. norbizness

    Say what you want about Christo, but that sandwich they named after him at Bennigan’s is AWESOME. Put another way: It. Is. Fucking. Awesome.

  2. J Crowley

    Bahahahaha. Oh, man. As much as I adore Pandagon, they really ought to watch what they put for titles, considering that “at Pandagon” is appended to the end of each title. I should try to convince them to switch it to something like “Pandagon | Title” or “Pandagon :: Title” or something.

    Now I’m kind of wanting to go back and look through and amuse myself with other titles.

    Glad to see someone else has gotten that fortune, by the way. It was delightfully baffling. The version we had, though, was “Now is the time to place a circle of mints. Do not haste!” Though we received it several months ago, we still haven’t placed that mint circle. It’s not the kind of thing one can haste, you see.

  3. Kathleen

    Christo is not such a knob as you may think. The proper way to talk about any artworks made by Christo is to identify them as the work of Christo and Jeanne-Claude. The duo are full collaborators in all aspects of the artwork, and the identification extends retro-actively to works made in the past which were previously attributed to Christo alone. They do not cotton in any way to the suggestion that one should be given any more credit than the other. A trip to their website may prove to be enlightening.

    http://christojeanneclaude.net/

    As for the AMOA, I thought that they were supposed to have built a big new building by now . . . did it not come to pass?

  4. Twisty

    Kathleen, I disagree. The proper way to allude to Christo is “the emporer gots no clothes.”

  5. A White Bear

    I concur with Kathleen. Christo may be an arrogant knob, but his work, which pays for itself by selling drawings of events before they happen to rich collector fucks, employs thousands of laborers and gives whole cities something to complain about in tandem. The project in Central Park was incredible. Everyone was walking around the Park in February, when normally they’d be off doing something solitary, there were workers in warm jumpsuits all around, being paid pretty well (from what I understand) to keep things looking nice, and yet everyone was saying, “Meh. I could take it or leave it.” Yet after it was gone, everyone missed it. It was a weird thing because you knew something really neat was happening and we were all experiencing it together, and yet you couldn’t really know what the value of it was until it was gone.

  6. Chris Clarke

    Twisty, I do occasionally indulge in that trendy linguistic sin to which you allude, but I promise I only do it ironically.

    The Gates was rather benign, but much of Christo’s work is far more environmentally destructive than its artistic merits justify.

  7. Finn

    “Norbizness strikes a counterbalancing blow for truth and beauty when he conducts a useful lesson on using the adverb objectively”

    Hilarious.

    So, yesterday, when I used the word ‘objectively’ I should have substituted with ‘in my narrow view.’

    ;-)

    I blame me.

  8. Chris Clarke

    Oh, and Twisty: does the email clean slate thing mean I should re-send those declarations of undying love?

  9. jezebella

    Christo and Jeanne-Claude have to get lots of licenses, permits, and environmental impact studies before doing any of their public works. There is a myth that their work is destructive but in fact it’s not.

    I thought they were aesthetic lightweights too, until I saw the Running Fence documentary. In it, they spend months and months discussing Art with sheep farmers, politicians, concerned citizens, and landowners, in an effort to get permission to run the fence across their property. For me, that is their primary achievement – getting people who NEVER think about art and what it is to have long and informed discussions with international artists about the subject. The Running Fence looks cool, but it’s ephemeral. As artists who work truly publicly (as in With The Public), they’re exemplary. The question of running the fence into the ocean actually almost stopped the project, as the seashore is always a delicate ecosystem. Working with environmentalists and locals, they found a way to keep the impact to a minimum. The documentation of the project also shows the ways land use is divided and controlled in our economy.

    Nothing warms my heart like watching sheep farmers sit around at the coffee shop discussing modern art, sculpture, and the definitions and boundaries therein.

    The Gates project in NYC engendered a LOT of discussion on the museum and art history and american studies listservs I read, and any artwork that makes people think and talk and argue and *look* is doing a good job, in my opinion. To some, Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s work look like elitist claptrap; others think it is too accessible and too easy.

    I never thought I’d find myself thinking about them in a feminist context, but as far as gender goes, Christo did get his head out of his ass years ago about taking full credit for work done in partnership with his wife. The patriarchal media (and art media is included here) usually, however, just says “Christo”. We cannot blame Christo for this, but we can blame the patriarchy.

  10. NewYorker

    I would think that, for a patriarchy-blamer, the best thing about Christo and Jean-Claude is that they are very successful in interrupting people’s “normal.” As we all know, it is so very, very, very difficult to get people to pick their eyes up from their everyday, long-established paradigms and see something from a different perspective, for once.

    But they succeed on a massive, public, free-to-all, no/low cost to taxpayers/the environment/etc.

    I say, good job. Also, Pont Neuf? Not so very interesting unwrapped, either. Totally forgettable if it isn’t wrapped up.

  11. peacebug

    in 9 jezebella writes The question of running the fence into the ocean actually almost stopped the project, as the seashore is always a delicate ecosystem. Working with environmentalists and locals, they found a way to keep the impact to a minimum.

    and I ask, is it OK to degrade delicate ecosystems as long as the impact is kept to “a minimum”?

  12. Kathleen

    Christo and Jeanne-Claude are frequent victims of conventional wisdom, which posits them as aesthetic hucksters and earth-destroyers. Closer investigation reveals that they do not fit the role so curiously assigned them. I blame the patriarchy for attempting to discredit their environmental concerns, their attempts to bring the public closer to a better awareness of art and their own surroundings, their commitment to paying fair wages and not being exploitative, and their use of the patriarchy’s own tool, capital, to give the public a non-commercial aesthetic experience. The patriarchy is also to blame for encouraging people to dismiss the contribution of Jeanne-Claude, the reality of her labors and the strength of the couple’s insistence notwithstanding.

  13. Burrow

    Seriously, everyhting looks like it’s under construction. I never liked the shrouds. Still don’t.

  14. LMYC

    Jesus, I had no idea that there were such legions of Christo-defenders patrolling the net before. I hope their lawyers aren’t as powerful as Scientology’s, or else Twisty’s in for it.

  15. Hattie

    Christo shows how we can build community with art. This is a democratic ideal, is it not?

  16. Chris Clarke

    I blame the patriarchy for attempting to discredit their environmental concerns

    Wrapping islands in polypropylene for two weeks, or installing plastic artwork on sensitive coastlines without approval from the public commission charged with guarding that coastline, is the sort of “environmental concern” the environment can do without. Although – full disclosure – I’m the kind of professional environmental activist who derides the arts community for bringing ten thousand people to live in a slum in the Black Rock Desert every year in order to make statements about our connection to nature and creativity, so you may wish to discount my opinion as that of a misanthropic crank.

    Your point about Jeanne-Claude is well taken, though, and I will correct my behavior on that subject in the future. And I thought The Gates was cool.

  17. Twisty

    Chris in 6: “The Gates was rather benign, but much of Christo’s work is far more environmentally destructive than its artistic merits justify.”

    Precisely! I wonder how many innocent marine animals bit the dust when he covered those Florida islands in pink tulle?

  18. Tony Patti

    Tony Patti likes him some dat Christo — sandwiched or not!

    Mighty mighty fine flags up in the Central Park back a bit.
    I was very glad to get to see them, following the smooth lines of the hills and follies of Olmstead’s scapes. That bleak NYC memory of a slate grey sky? Just like the doctor ordered. Blazing saffron against that sky. It was like seeing in ultra-violet, like some species of insects, flying critters.

    Hate him if you must, forget his wife, dump them into the ash bins of Twisty Neglect, brush the paws briskly and bounce off having accomplished something. But I owe them a little something me! for that unforgettable glimpse.

  19. Alexandrine

    To break away from Christo and Jeanne-Claude for a moment…

    You know, with all this inbreeding going on in Utah, the patriarchs there really need to come up with some new terms to describe family relationships. I mean, what does one call one’s grandson who is the son of one’s husband and one’s daughter, when said husband is also one’s second cousin and the husband of all of one’s sisters? If they don’t, the greeting card industry is going to have to start printing bigger cards to fit all of that on there: “Happy 10th Birthday/Congratulations on the New Baby to My Daughter-Granddaughter-Niece-Cousin!”

  20. SneakySnu

    That’s gorgeous photo of Stingray.

    I love when Twisty goes all aesthete on us!

    I agree with you about Christo, Twisty. The drawings are fantastic, but the projects themselves leave me cold. I feel that way about a lot of contemporary architecture, too; that is, the works look cool as hell in drawings and models, but don’t work out in reality.

    I’m wondering what many of you think of environmental art, or what used to be called “earth art”? Compare Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s work to, say Mary Miss. The type of art is much different, as Miss’s works are permanent (as in, meant to be seen for a very long time, if not forever) while Christo’s are temporary.

  21. Chris Clarke

    And then there are temporary Earth Artists such as Andy Goldsworthy, whose work can be argued to nestle into a landscape rather than bisecting or covering it.

  22. Liz

    Well if the artsy folks are going to force the sheep farmers to contemplate and accomodate art, then I say the sheep farmers should have equal time forcing the art world to contemplate and accomodate sheep. I say the farmers herd their flocks through the middle of every art opening, art school, gallerey and museum in New York. Sheep should be milling around in the lobbies and halls and exhibit rooms, plopping turds on the footwear of patrons and investors, knocking over easels and disrupting art classes with their bleating. While their border collies herd everybody into a corner, eat all the watercress and brie canapes, and make off with the Hermes bags. It’s only fair.

  23. Chris Clarke

    Liz, I will SO help you write the NEA grant for that.

  24. Ykcir

    Linguistic abuse that annoys me most:

    Substituting the very useful word “disinterested” (speaking of “objectively”) for “uninterested.”

    I even saw the most exquisite prose stylist I know do it once. Her name be…Twisty.

  25. Twisty

    Oh yeah? Go tell it to Norbizness.

  26. norbizness

    Consider it told, fifty-fold! Goddamn, you have some chatty motherfuckers in your posse! And they’ve infected my regular stable of slack-jawed yokels! Objectively speaking.

  27. LMYC

    Christo shows how we can build community with art. This is a
    democratic ideal, is it not?

    I can think of a dozen artists who actually succeed in doing this, most of whom I know personally. Wrapping some shit in cellophane and calling it “art” doesn’t impress me.

  28. Twisty

    I was just gonna say that I’m fine with that community-building shit as long as the art is actually art, and not some ugly-ass fish-killin’ burlap. “Hey, let’s all come together and put a garbage bag on the Taj Mahal” does not strike me as an act that ultimately elevates humanity.

    But I see LMYC has beaten me to the punch.

  29. Finn

    twisty sez… “I was just gonna say that I’m fine with that community-building shit as long as the art is actually art, and not some ugly-ass fish-killin’ burlap. “Hey, let’s all come together and put a garbage bag on the Taj Mahal” does not strike me as an act that ultimately elevates humanity.”

    But, weren’t you the one who was defending the big hole in the ground that Michael Heizer is digging out in the desert?

  30. jezebella

    well, for heavens’ sakes, no one is FORCING any sheep farmers to do anything, Liz, don’t get all shirty on me already! If the sheep farmers wish to engage the public in meditations on sheep farming, well then, let ‘em have at it.

    If Christo & Jeanne-Claude leave you cold, well then, fine, I have no problem with that. Art appreciation is subjective. I dig most modern art but don’t expect anyone else to. I am generally mystified by people who have allergic reactions to art they don’t get or don’t like.

    However, I think the work is intellectually interesting from the point of view of land-use & ownership, and community building, irregardless, for all intensive purposes, and you should of been able to tell that from my definately objective data.

    And, well, I concede that the pink wrapped islands project – over twenty years ago now (1981-3) – did turn out to have negative ecological impact, but they’ve made sure to rectify that error in projects since then. Not really fair to dismiss them out of hand for an error decades ago that they have not repeated.

    At least their work is temporary. As striking & successful as some earth art is in photographs, a lot of it is pretty aggressive in terms of permanent impact on the land. A lot of earth artists picked the desert b/c of its emptiness, but in fact the desert is an ecosystem that can be thrown out of balance if you bring in bulldozers and cut a two-mile trench through it. The earth artists who are into aesthetic reclamation of devastated landscapes (strip-mined, etc.) are on the right track, I think.

    Then there are those huge projects, like James Turrell’s Roden Crater, where the artist imposes his vision on acres and acres of the land. I still can’t make up my mind about it conceptually. Aesthetically, well, I don’t think anyone who hasn’t been (myself included) can make a fair assessment on that score.

  31. jezebella

    wait! OH! I missed something:

    Twisty, re: comment 28 – are we sure is art’s goal to “elevate humanity”? Can’t art have other purposes than enlightenment and elevation?

    Art which addresses sexism and racism and the holocaust and poor people and lesbians and latino culture and….. etc. etc. etc. has frequently been dismissed by the conservative side of the art establishment for precisely this reason – it is not “elevating” or enjoyable or pleasing to the patriarch.

  32. robin

    Thank you THANK YOU for skewering the awful little trend of Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah.

    I get itchy every time I read one of those.

    Blogging and commenting (not THIS blog, mind you) seems to cause a rash of awful little language memes to rise up and travel around like fury.
    (I just lurve them.. NOT! Dude, they make me throw up in my mouth! A big MWAAAH!
    to Twisty for being a fine and able watchdog keeping these itchy trends from running out of control..)

  33. Twisty

    “are we sure is art’s goal to “elevate humanity”?”

    Well, I’m sure that if it doesn’t, it’s something else. Like the Lifetime Channel.

  34. CGG

    Wow I finally disagree with you about something. The Gates rocked my world. It made me view Central Park and NYC (my former home) in a completely new way. I love how Christo and Jeanne Claude fund their own works and make them out of materials that can be recycled.

    The question is how can I blame the patriarchy for our disagreement?

  35. Twisty

    The gates didn’t really bother me. But come on. Why wrap a tree? I assure you, it does nothing to improve the look and feel of the tree, and frankly it seems kind of mean.

  36. Chris Clarke

    but in fact the desert is an ecosystem that can be thrown out of balance if you bring in bulldozers and cut a two-mile trench through it.

    What. Jezebella. Said. I have strongly mixed feelings about Spiral Jetty for the same reason.

    I can’t stand it anymore: I’ma gonna blogpimp this old post of mine because it’s apropos.

  37. thebewilderness

    Art as an imposition of your vision on what is already an artistic expression of someone elses vision. Not so good. I resented the gates for that reason. It seemed to me like defacing a masterwork. I was very glad it was temporary.

  38. Stingray

    Damn, Twisty, now you’re just instigating for the thrill of the fight. You seem to have struck a Christo chord that’s not so popular with most of your blamers. I personally agree with New Yorker:

    “I would think that, for a patriarchy-blamer, the best thing about Christo and Jean-Claude is that they are very successful in interrupting people’s “normal.”

    Aside from that, what’s up with the Holga makin’ me look like a painterly teenage boy?

    I. Signed. No. Model. Release. Form.

  39. Twisty

    “Oh, and Twisty: does the email clean slate thing mean I should re-send those declarations of undying love?”

    Absatively!

  40. Aussie Liz

    I’m with Chris Clarke.

    Each year I help organize an ecology camp in the forests of East Gippsland (south east Australia). The aim is to get suburban families out into the forest to experience nature, so that they will stop tolerating clearfelling for woodchips. We show them the plants and the little animals and so on in an intact old growth forest, then take them to logging areas so they can see what happens.

    And each year some people try to bring their drums so they can spend the evening making loud noises and whooping etc, right in the middle of the same forest they found so precious during the day, right at the time when the crepuscular and nocturnal forest dwellers are coming out of their hollows to feed. The drummers never, ever understand it when I put a stop to it: “but we are connecting with the forest!”! No you aren’t, you are enforcing strange and frightening noises on animals who need their ears to survive. You are being a cultural imperialist. They think they are being tribal and native, and of course it’s an imported native American / African cultural mishmash of ‘tribal’ – it doesn’t come from this place or connect with it. They might as well stay home and watch TV, since by making the noise and connecting so intently with eachother and their camp fire, they can’t see or hear any of the night happenings all around them.

  41. Liz

    And if you want art, you just need to look at the play of light on the creases of fabric on Stingray’s holgafied shoulders.

  42. Rene

    My father-in-law bought several of Christo’s NYC drawings, the ones that funded the Central Park installation (which I didn’t see). The drawings are OK — not, in my mind, worth what he paid for them but not as big a waste as any number of other things he could have done with his money, such as writing a check to the RNC or buying an office park in the floodplains.

    I was in Paris when the Pont Neuf was wrapped, but no one seemed to care in the least. Then again, I seldom spoke to anyone but children younger than 10 and other filles au pair, who, as I recall, never wanted to talk about anything but getting drunk and finally getting even with their tyrannical boss mothers.

    On an unrelated note, I quit smoking today. I’m telling everyone I know, and even those I don’t, in the hope that shame will keep me from backsliding.

    Rene

  43. kathy a

    art blaming! i never really understood christo and jeanne-claude and wrapping things like islands or buildings. but then — when the hell was it, 1992? — i was driving to los angeles from the north when they had their umbrellas project, which [from the press] i figured was incredibly stupid. but then i saw it and could not stop smiling — the yellow brellas traced their way merrily up hillsides and marked the tops of ridges for miles, and actually drew my attention to the landscape in a new way. something funny happened with scale, too — these enormous umbrellas were puny little dots on the majestic hills. i liked the temporary nature of the venture, too.

    chris — i used to love the sculptures on the emeryville mud flats, but the bay is pretty damned lovely itself, and the mudflats healthier now that both art and heavier industries have moved away. burning man? just don’t get it. but that is likely because i’m cranky and, according to the latest survey of age-challenged persons in this household, a dinosaur.

  44. kate

    Oh Christo! The memories!

    Not really, mind you, I just remember reading about some guy who was draping a cliff with parachute fabric in one of the hardbound snotty history/cultural/art mags that my dad subscribed to. This was in the early seventies and the pics were in black and white. I read the story, I was about 10 I think. I was confused. Why cover something in fabric? I read the entire article to reach the meaning of the picture showing the artist with a bunch of other men holding the huge fabric over a cliff, with mountains all around. The fabric was shown billowing in the wind and they showed the result, as he had to tie it down and across in order to get it to stay. Then they removed it and were onto to another. If I recall correctly, he was considered anti-establishment because he often didn’t have permission to conduct these wrappings and wanted to get his message out before getting caught.

    I recall my disappointment that I didn’t get the message, they never spoke of it, only his efforts. I was at a loss.

    Now here he is, thirty years later. I read about his work in NYC, but alas, as a member of the working classes, tied to making a meager living, I had no opportunity to go to NYC and see it or experience it.

    I greatly appreciate one poster’s argument that his efforts bring community together to speak of art, but then I wonder, must we all depend on one man who runs around invading the environment with fabric to get people talking about art? Are those of us who are ‘in the know’ about such things too busy or afraid to get our hands dirty and talk about art and other touchy matters with the common folk? We rely on Christo.

    If I was a big money-baggeed spinster, I’d support Liz’s idea in Post #22, but possibly we could have the sheep accompanied by welfare mothers, disabled people, cafeteria ladies, winos, crackwhores and all other denizens of the dirty, dirty world.

  45. christina

    oh my. does anyone else care that the sandwich at bennigan’s is NOT named after christo the artist? minor point, but it has been bothering me all day!

  46. Antipodean Kate

    I bought some postcards of Christo’s flags in Central Park and they were pretty. The postcards, anyway. Orange flags on black and white sketches of the city in winter: gorgeous.

    But as for the wrapping stuff, well, it’s all rather silly. But I do like the look of the spiral jetty. Sorry.

  47. norbizness

    Christina: The hell you say. I heard that he’s planning to encircle Stonehenge with delicious Christo Sandwiches, now only $6.99 with your choice of one side and a drink, from Bennigan’s (“Elevating Humanity Through Mock-Trendy Food”) Restaurant.

  48. zuzu

    Well, I’m sure that if it doesn’t, it’s something else. Like the Lifetime Channel.

    You can’t tell me that Mother, May I Sleep With Danger? isn’t art, lady.

  49. cinder

    I’d never heard of Christo before reading this post, so I checked out his website. I gotta say I find it ridiculously extravagant to spend the kind of money he does on the kind of crap he creates. I am ALL about upsetting people’s daily routine and assumptions.

    The fact that he seeks city permits makes it utterly banal. Illegal public art is thrilling, once it’s officially sanctioned it is stripped of any content and becomes just another spectacle.

    Graffitti, bizarre public performance art, clandestine aesthetic overhauls of public space… I appreciate the spontaneous and unsanctioned reclamation of public space by any means. Once it’s permitted it is just absorbed into the frenetic spectacle of contemporary capitalism. It is not capable of challenging anything because it is utterly dependent on it’s relationship to capital.

    Maybe I’m just far too working class to understand the stifling banality of high art… lower class enough to think street art is more relevant than any insitutionally approved garbage.

  50. Rhus

    Liz evokes a great image in # 22, starting with:

    “I say the sheep farmers should have equal time forcing the art world to contemplate and accomodate sheep.”

    These images might interest you. Sheep farmers say that their purpose is to keep old routes open, but maybe they could be persuaded to drive their flocks through an art gallery or two. (A lot of homages to patriarchy in El Prado… that might be a little too much iconoclasm, though.)

  51. Tony Patti

    Poor Stingray!

    She never struck me as the kind of person who enjoyed drawing attention to herself. The photo is incredibly beautiful, though, and if you think about it, nobody could ever pass her on the street and identify her from a photo like that, so her privacy is intact.

    The power of Stingray is all in her incredibly cool personal demeanor, which you can only sense by standing in her general vicinity at Star Death shows. I’m not sure if it is something you see or if it is something you sense.

  52. tisha

    re: the Pandagon trackback, the “arguments I refuse to engage in” thread on Pandagon is pretty funny!

    http://pandagon.net/2006/03/01/consistency-is-our-middle-name-that-and-desiree/

  53. tigtog

    Adrienne,

    just hijacking this thread ‘cos the previous one seems to be closed. When J Crowley mentioned The Handmaid’s Tale, you took it as some sort of BDSM title and said you had no desire to read it.

    Nooooooooooooooooo!

    AHT is Patriarchy-Blaming of the finest nutbag-godbags-must-be-fought variety, and is a definite must-read.

  54. Kathleen

    Oooo! I HATE Burning Man!

    But I LOVE sheep; please send me some.

  55. Kathleen

    Oh! Also please send me some Andy Goldsworthy.

  56. darkymac

    I be too late, as usual, to avoid the ibtm thread-disintegration-into-wierd-sexuality, but Christo argumentation is a hoot.

    And here’s proof that his art is trailblazing.

    http://today.reuters.co.uk/news/newsPhotoPresentation.aspx?type=scienceNews&imageID=2006-03-17T032923Z_01_NOOTR_RTRIDSP_0_SCIENCE-ENVIRONMENT-VERBIER-DC.XML

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