Tuesday, January 22, 2008

over the river

the artists christo and jean-claude will be discussing their latest proposed project for over the river, project for the arkansas river, colorado at a free reception on march 7th in downtown denver at republic plaza.
if you don't want to wait until march, then head down to colorado springs as christo and jeanne-claude will give the free lecture about their proposed art piece at 3:30 p.m. at packard hall on the colorado college campus.
scheduled for exhibition in the summer of 2012, the piece is essentially giant sheets of translucent fabric, suspended over the arkansas river:

Fabric panels suspended horizontally clear of and high above the water level will follow the configuration and width of the changing course of the river, during a period of two consecutive weeks to be selected between mid-July and mid-August of any given year in the future, in 2012 at the earliest.

Steel wire cables, anchored on the upper part of the riverbanks, will cross the river and serve as attachment for the fabric panels. The woven fabric panels, sewn in advance, with rows of grommets at the edges perpendicular to the river, will create shimmering waves of fabric, 8 to 25 feet (2.4 to 7.6 meters) above the water. The 5.9 mile (9,4 kilometer) long stream of successive fabric panels will be interrupted by bridges, rocks, trees, and bushes and for esthetic reasons, creating abundant flows of light.

Wide clearance between the banks and the edges of the fabric panels will create a play of contrast allowing sunlight to illuminate the river on both sides. When seen from underneath, standing on the rocks, at the edge of the river, at water level or by rafting, the luminous and translucent fabric will highlight the contours of the clouds, the mountains and the vegetation.

i couldn't resist posting these preliminary sketches done by the artist. whether one supports the efforts of the artists or not, the renderings exude an ethereal quality which captures the imagination of actually being there. plus--they seem like they would be some damn good eye candy to the architecture crowd! the wind that blows through the fabric panels not only distracts the viewer from the water [and the obstacles] ahead, but reveal the more invisible forces which are present in the canyon.

when contemplating the artists' body of work, at first it seems to be just a one trick pony--superficial "wrapping" of large objects [ie the pont neuf project or the wrapped reichstag], hiding detail and reducing a monument to a ghost of its previous self. within their more later works [re: the gates] the concept of revealing the invisible forces of each artworks' individual site becomes wondrous, rather than an inquisitive masquerade. from the website:

Christo and Jeanne-Claude's works are entire environments, whether they are urban or rural. The artists temporarily use one part of the environment. In doing so, we see and perceive the whole environment with new eyes and a new consciousness...

to me, this piece represents an ideal practice within architecture--the goal always being to reveal the nature of the landscape, while continuously fighting the urge to objectify the structure or fetish-ize its details. a building, like this piece, seeks to merge with the landscape, but while art only projects an image architecture must project a function.

the sheer scale of this thing enormous. some of the numbers include:

-2,029: number of pages in the submittal to the bureau of land management
-10: number of agencies [state and federal] the proposal must satisfy for permit
-962: total number of fabric panels
-50: number of miles the project will actually stretch
-4,375: [sf] area of the largest fabric panel
-5/8: diameter [in inches] of largest steel cable supporting the panels
-1,750: number [in feet] of longest panelized section
-14: number of days the installation will be open
-250,000: expected number of visitors in that same time period
-3: years of actual construction
-??? million: budget of the project, provided solely by the artists, partially funded by sales of drawings, renderings and lithographs of the proposal

then, there is always the opposition. rags over the arkansas river[http://www.roarcolorado.org/] make the case that there will be a "traffic nightmare" on highway 50, desecration to the wildlife population, safety hazards and difficulties for emergency personnel, increase in human litter, and negative impact on local recreational activities.

evidently christo and jean claude have been to colorado before in 1971, and the people there have not forgotten. rifle gap curtain.

so what happens when a project of this scale becomes reality? does the lustre of the image become overshadowed by real logistics and environmental impact?

in other words: art at what cost?

No comments: