Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Behold the Gates




This past Sunday we made the journey to see Christo and Jeanne-Claude's Gates in Central Park. We were in town to visit with Erica and Sam, and to make their engagement portrait. Our first sight of the Gates was from our taxi as it approached the park towards the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The museum was mobbed, eliminating any chance of viewing the Gates from the roof. After a lunch break at a diner on 82nd Street, we headed into the park by the egyptian gallery on the north side of the MET. The gently curving path was covered in a tunnel of saffron cloth and vinyl structure, which served as a dramatic introduction to the park-wide network of 7,500 gates.

With only enough time to make one trip across the park along the 85th Street Traverse, I wasn't able to spend as much time as would have liked reflecting on the Gates. But perhaps our short visit kept me from over-thinking this ephemeral display so I could enjoy it at a pre-rational level.

In addition to moblogging from the scene so Amy's parents could get a look from Ohio, I also took lots of photos. Indeed, many have remarked that the Gates will likely be the most photographed artwork. Most of the park's visitors had cameras that will, over the course of the 16 days that the Gates will be displayed, no doubt create millions of similar images and video. When the Gates are dismantled for recycling on February 28th, every visitor who took photos will carry into the future a piece of a collective memory of the project much larger than what the artist himself could possibly produce.

In a city full of large-scale constructions, the Christo's gift of human-scale gates gave everyone a chance to make art from art.

Here are some more photos from our visit to the Gates.

And some links:

Christo_gates_swatchUPDATE 2/23: One other thing I didn't have time for while we were touring the Gates was to wait for a project volunteer to return with some of the 1,000,000 free sample swatches that are being given away. But sure enough, a search in eBay turned up plenty of them. I ended up using "buy now" to acquire a set of two swatches and postcards. Other items noted are Gates tote bags (made of the same nylon fabric) that were sold at the MET, baseball caps, metal bolts and plastic covers from the gates and a funny entry of Gates made from LEGO Duplo blocks which are selling for $5000. One shouldn't underestimate the ingenuity of native New Yorkers—I fully expect to see a mostly intact Gate on auction after the 28th. There are also enough of these orange fabric samples floating around now that artists will likely incorporate them into their own pieces.

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Thursday, September 11, 2003

My daily commute around the memory of 9/11


For over 100 days this past winter and spring, I commuted via the NY Waterway ferry from the pier at the end of Wall Street westward around Lower Manhattan to Exchange Place in Jersey City and back again. I was living in a hotel just off Wall Street and consulting in the Jersey City offices of AIG's Corporate eBusiness Group. This daily run on the Hudson River amounted to almost 200 boat rides. On most of these 15-minute boat rides, I'd try to imagine the outline of the Twin Towers over Ground Zero, and think about the view of the smoke and destruction the ferry riders had on the day of the attack. The commuter ferry stopped right at the front of our building, which has a spectacular view of the financial district and the World Financial Center where the Twin Towers once stood. To honor the people from Jersey City that died when the towers went down, the city erected a small temporary memorial on the waterfront promenade near the commuter pier.


The memorial consists of a slab of black granite and four pieces of I-beam wreckage salvage from Ground Zero. The slab has a list of names of the missing on the waterfront side and on the reverse is an engraving of the skyline with the Twin Towers. The I-beam pieces are stacked in the shape of the letter A and point to the slab in the direction of Ground Zero. Standing behind the I-beams of the Jersey City 9-11 memorial, you can sight through the converging metal pieces to the photo-engraving of the towers and beyond to Ground Zero. The memorial elegantly enhanced the thoughts I had on the boat.


I would feel a shudder every time I touched the twisted and torn-edged pieces of I-beam. I'd think about these I-beams churning and pulverizing everything in the vortex of the collapsing towers. I'd look at the big gap of Ground Zero and try to visualize a massive pile of debris consisting only of these I-beams and dust in chunks no larger than the palm of your hand. And then I'd survey the bits of ephemera—ribbons, small flags, notecards, and ceramic cherubs—that people affixed to the beams and feel an inadequate simulation of the profound loss felt by surviving family members.

While this memorial still stands as of this writing, I read that there is a new permanent design in the works. I hope the new memorial succeeds as powerfully as this one.

Lastly, I share with you a photo gallery from 11/11/01.

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Friday, August 15, 2003

The Big (Blacked-out) Apple

My first view of yesterday's big blackout was on the video wall at my old office, which displayed aerial video of New York Waterway's 38th Street commuter pier. One report said there were as many as 20,000 people surrounding the entrance waiting to board the boats. I've walked that pier countless times and am very glad I wasn't there yesterday.

I opened my laptop while watching the coverage and checked some of the New York blogs, and not surprisingly, no one was able to post. I had hoped some of the mobloggers would have gotten messages or photos out, but apparently, various cell networks were overloaded with call traffic. The silence of the blogs was eerie.

But not to worry, Cameron Barrett is back online and has compiled an excellent report with his own photos and links to other local blogs with coverage. Be sure to read Paul Ford's As Brooklyn Slowly Drunkened.

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