Friday, 2 March 2012

Christo & Jeanne-Claude

Christo [Bulgarian-born American Environmental Artist, born in 1935.
Jeanne-Claude [French-born American Environmental Artist, 1935-2009]

“On September 22, 1985, a group of 300 professional workers completed the temporary work of art The Pont Neuf Wrapped. They had deployed 40,876 square meters (454,178 square feet) of woven polyamide fabric, silky in appearance and golden sandstone in color… The fabric was restrained by 13,076 meters (42,900 feet) of rope and secured by 12.1 metric tons (11.8 long tons) of steel chains encircling the base of each tower, 1 meter (3.3 feet ) underwater…. Wrapping the Pont-Neuf continues this tradition of successive metamorphoses by a new sculptural dimension and transforms it, for fourteen days, into a work of art.” (Christo & Jeanne Claude)

The Point Neuf Wrapped transformed the entire bridge and connecting structures into a totally new and engaging environment for a fortnight in 1985, allowing the viewer to experience a known structure in a totally new and enchanting way while still maintaining the main shapes of Paris’ oldest bridge. The use of fabric and rope gives the whole piece a “dressed” feel, one could almost compare the work to various iconic fashion designs; as well as allowing movement and dynamics in the wind/sunlight/rain. The fabric gives the bridge a delicate and dramatic feel at the same time, the sandstone colour adding to the delicate and fragile aesthetic. The way the bridge was wrapped allowed continued river, motor and pedestrian traffic under and over the bridge. Viewers were able to engage in a very physical and personal way as they made their way through the folds of the fabric.

This huge ephemeral site specific artwork has a beautiful dreamlike quality, an image and feeling the viewer would take away with them and relive when they visited the site again in future. The temporary nature of the work adding to the viewers sense of a waking dream, something personally experienced that then drifts away. The artists wanted to express the continued change/evolution of the bridge over time through their own vision, adding to the rich history of the structure itself. 

“On May 7, 1983 the installation of Surrounded Islands was completed… 585,000 square meters (6.5 million square feet) of pink woven polypropylene fabric covering the surface of the water, floating and extending out 61 meters (200 feet) from each island into the Bay. The fabric was sewn into 79 patterns to follow the contours of the 11 islands.” (Genetologic Research. 2009)

Another example of the artists temporarily redefining a landscape, but in this instance by surrounding 11 Islands in Biscayne Bay, with giant shiny pink fabric spanning 7 miles. The central location allowed for a huge audience via air, water and land. The view changing for each of these spectators depending on their location and distance from the piece. From the air the work looks like giant single celled organisms, the smaller split from the larger, as it begins its evolution. Again the artists transform the familiar into the extraordinary for a brief period of time, taking the viewer into a constructed fairy-tale world.

This site specific artwork was designed and created with this specific site in mind. Christo & Jeanne-Claude spend years planning and researching their locations. In this instance the islands, their ecology and use by the community was studied, to develop a piece that is relevant to the space.

The artists want their work to create a feeling of love and tenderness “to their works, as an added value, (dimension) as a new aesthetic quality”. (Christo & Jeanne Claude)

This desire to evoke specific feelings in the audience is communicated in the use of wrapping and here surrounding. It would appear the work is holding the islands together, holding them close or embracing them with fabric. This particular project saw a specific environmental benefit to the islands themselves, in the removal of tonnes of garbage in the process of creating and removing this work, hence literally expanding on the loving care symbolism of the surrounding fabric.


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