The Gates: Monitoring Day 5 - In the Zone.

February 27, 2005

A lot of people asked me if I was wistful today. I wasn't. Jeanne-Claude really put it the best. She told us that when people ask her if she is sad to see the Gates go she tells them to think of a rainbow. You know it is going to be gone, but that doesn't make you sad. Think rainbow.

She is such a hippy. I love her.

A lot of people don't like her. I can understand why. She is not given to dispensing comfort. If she offends you, she is very clear on the fact that this is *your* problem. I'm certain that working for her is an emotionally challenging endeavor. Being married to her must be as well.

Christo, from the distance I experienced him, which was considerable, seemed to be a very gentle artistic soul. He has a lot of passion, he really is a man who utterly expresses himself artistically. To know his Art is to know him. I also think the fact that Jeanne-Claude does not shrink from self-expression comforts him. It's not that he doesn't feel just as strongly about things as she, he just gets to skip expending the energy, hers is plenty for them both.

I think a fair amount of what rubs people the wrong way about Jeanne-Claude is the simple fact that she is a woman. She is an assertive, demanding, opinonated, and sometimes clumsy force of nature. In a man this is called "leadership." In a woman, it is called "bitchiness." Well, what the hell? I like a nice austere burgundy too, and those are falling out of favor these days too.

So, back to where it all started--Zone Five, Area 1. This is the area along the western border of the park bounded by 86th and 90th streets with the reservior to the east. 100 Gates, my crew installed 92 of them. This was our primary area of responsiblity, but supply SNAFU's and slower crews in adjacent areas adjusted plans in such a way that another crew ended up performing the installation of the last 8 Gates in our area. And they got the bolts wrong.

I had shoveled much of this area, certainly all of the dangerous areas, on monitor day three, so I had a double sense of ownership. I had both installed these gates and shoveled the snow.

I continued to hold the fabric swatches neatly stacked in my hand. This continued to inspire people to request them. I had about 800 swatches handed out by lunch, and I went to lunch early. It was a good day for talking to people, but not as good as Saturday had been. There seemed to be a real contingent of people that came today, the last day, out of some sense of obligation to an external standard. The "had to see it" crowd. It was an interesting study of human nature. I got to see a lot of different emotional reactions to the work today.

The most common reaction is what I have been describing all along--joy. It just makes people smile, it puts a bounce in their step and a twinkle in their eye. The next most common reaction is awe at the scale and organization of the project. These both are reactions that simply would be impossible to experience if one did not actually come to the project. If you didn't come and you don't get it, know this: I would have felt the same way had I not been in the Park. This was one of the most striking parallels with 911 for me. I didn't "get" 911 until I came around the corner of the Trinty Church on October 4, 2001 and saw ground zero. After that, I couldn't un-get it.

It's the same for The Gates. You have to see it. I have no idea if the documentary will capture it, I hope so. I'll tell you what I think. In any case, the artistic statement requires interaction from the viewer. It's Christo's party, you're invited, but you had to show up to really have any fun. There won't be any Joni Mitchell writing a song about The Gates from a hotel room downtown without having come here.

It's sort of like New York City, too. You have to visit here to get it. Not everyone that visits gets it. There were people walking through the Park who were grumbling under their breath about how this is a spectacle, not a work of Art, about how much it resembles a construction site (another temporary installation, an interesting metaphor actually), about how awful it is to waste $23M on this. So many fewer bemoan wasting $100M on a terrible action movie....

Towards the end of the day I just got tired. I sat down on a bench and handed out swatches. At one point I had an audience of about 30 people for whom I was answering questions like a press conference. It was sort of fun because it was so effortless. I knew anything people wanted to know about the project. I had worked out my answers, I understood the material, I was in the zone.

In the Zone, in my Zone, amongst the Gates I helped install. It was a nice place to finish.