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Fleeting art

I recently read about the environmental artist couple Christo and Jeanne-Claude, who’s art mission seems to be to greatly change a landscape (usually through fabric) – for two weeks. After that, everything goes back to normal. Interesting projects include wrapping the German Parliament, the Pont Neuf bridge in Paris, and installing over 7,500 saffron fabric gates in Central Park, NY (picture above). They’re currently working on obtaining permission to cover 40 miles of the Arkansas River in Colorado with fabric.

Probably the most unique part of their work is the extremely short duration – usually millions of dollars are spent on constructing the fabric – and it’s all dismantled after two weeks or so.. despite requests for extension in some cases. Why? The answer, given in a National Geographic Magazine interview in the November 2006 issue, is thought-provoking:

Artists of the past have created works in bronze, in marble, in fresco, in oil, even with televisions… But there is one quality they have never used, and that is the quality of love and tenderness that we human beings have for what does not last. We have love and tenderness for childhood and for our own lives because we know they will not last. And so we wish our work of art to be once in a lifetime and never again.

Although I don’t know much about art, one way that art probably serves us is to make us think about things differently. I can well imagine that with changes on such a massive scale for such a short period of time – anyone who’s seen these works will never look at the landscape in the same way again.

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