Sunday, February 13, 2005

Heaven's Gates, Freudian slips

[Working title: "I Love New York"]

Yesterday we visited Central Park around 4 p.m., eager to be there on the inaugural day of The Gates, Christo and Jeanne-Claude's long-aborning project. We entered at 86th and CPW, and by about the second gate I could feel myself smile. It's a formula for pure joy—simple, repetitive, and inspired in every sense of the word.

[Voice from the peanut gallery: "What do you mean, 'every sense of the word'?"]

There's something serene and a little silly about the project. It calms us down and it makes us laugh. Looking askance from the route you're on—at one or several other trails similarly garlanded with the orange thresholds—gives a surreal sense of infinity, a familiar landscape taken over by friendly invaders. The gates and drapes enhance the trailness of the trails, happily impose thousands of contexts. We're in the Garden of Forking Paths. (Indeed, even in today's brilliant sunlight, one couldn't help but conjure a future Law & Order episode—the criminal obscured by the endless iterations of orange.)(Or is the whole project a tribute to Jeanne-Claude's hair color?)(I love them, by the way—I love the way they say their art is useless.)

[V. from the p.g.: "You didn't answer the question, Mac!"]

Right! Back to "every sense of the word"!

Inspired! Yes, because the most beautiful moments of The Gates (already we're on wonderfully slippery ground, because this art exists in time, it is temporary in duration yet infinite as a river in the ways you can read it) occur when the wind courses through, causing the fabric to billow, as if articulating a thought, a face, a memory. Sometimes a whole path will be set aflame, as it were, antic orange all around. Sometimes only a few in the sequence will be stirred. Central Park, the lungs of the city, gets to circulate this glorious February ice-sharp air.

Two thoughts:

1. See my appreciation of Todd McEwen's Who Sleeps With Katz ("Central Park is a god and also the abode of the god"). And let's think about how all that is solid melts into air. [Sountrack: Talking Heads, "Air."]

2. Fans of Zhang Yimou's Hero, with its textile-grokking cinematography (courtesy of Christopher Doyle), will go wild over The Gates. Consider it a whimsical, abridged-and-elongated theatrical version of the film, transposing the film's vigorous palette (blue, red, green, white) to a color key all its own.

I'm going to try to go every day until the end.

***

Postscript (adapted from an e-mail I just sent a friend): I overheard one guy saying [today], "This is the biggest pile of crap I've ever seen." Oh, get over yourself. [...] On Nightline on Friday, they were talking about The Gates, and saying, "Not all New Yorkers think it's a good idea." They interview one "Olive Freud," of the Sierra Club, "The park is for people to enjoy nature, not for this sort of commercial enterprise," etc. OK, fine. Then they talked to another naysayer—and I swear, his name was something like "Bill Freud" (Edgar Freud?), and he was also part of the Sierra Club! Maybe Olive's husband or brother. It was not exactly a convincing case.

Everybody, please: Get over yourselves.

***

Postpostscript (addendum to point 2, above): Cf. the doorways without walls in Kim Ki-duk's Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter . . . and Spring.

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