Friday, February 11, 2005


I was prepared to ignore Christo's monumental ego project in Central Park, but enough people I know seem to be coming to New York specifically to see it, which has started to piss me off. Isn't there enough interesting things, things a jillion times more interesting than sheets blowing in the wind, to see in New York every day of the year? Shouldn't people come up just because they're showing noir films on the big screen at Film Forum, or because you can get Chinese food like nowhere else on the east coast, or because you can protest the Republican convention, or because virtually every square inch of the place is haunted by American history. But no, these are all inadequate, but some charlatan with a name like casino floor-show magician decides to build $21 million laundry line in one of the few treasured and truly public spaces here, and everyone in suburban Pennsylvania starts clearing their calendar.

Most New Yorkers are predicably blase about this, but they seem like they should be pissed off on principle. Public space should not be coopted for one man's pursuit of personal notoriety. Christo's desire to blot out nature in Central Park reminds me of The Simpsons' Mr. Burns and his quest to blot out the sun (as man has longed to "since the beginning of time," he explained). And the colossal waste of money being made manifest in one of the places where the itenerant and the homeless are sure to be is like a tremendous "fuck you" to the poor of this city, an exclaimation point on all the other ostentatious signals of contempt that already punctuate the streets.

I suspect people are drawn to huge ephemeral projects like these out of some primeval atavistic sense of potlatch, an eagerness to see tremendous waste. That's what differentiates this from the permanent works of public art, which while typically oppressive and ugly, at least make some kind of permanent transformation of human environments. But this Christostrophe is all about seeing great sums squandered in ways we could never imagine, and in some way vicariously parrticipate in that ultimate power, indeed to walk through it, to wander about in a wonderland of calculated profligacy.


  1. Sounds like we need some lighter fluid and some "Strike-anywhere" matches ;)

  2. Christo, and every other media outlet in the world, wanted me to remind you that he paid for this thing all by himself. Also, he said "excuse me for trying to do something interesting," and then he suggested you check out Minsk circa 1978 for the anti-capitalist utopia you seem to crave.

  3. You're free to hate "The Gates" and blog about it, and I'm usually sympathetic to arguments by on-point Simpsons references.

    Still, I think you've lost perspective on this one. Is $21 million really a "great sum" in a city where housing in the 'better' neighborhoods is priced in excess of $1000 per square foot (not to mention in a country spending $225 million a day on a pointless war)? Is Central Park "nature"? Does permanence make the "oppressive and ugly" better? Could you explain any affirmative answers?