No, Zen Mama (see comment to previous post), I won’t be calling you crazy, not on any subject, but especially not on this one. And did you hear the coverage on NPR today (http://www.wnyc.org/studio360/show.html ), linking the Gates project for sheer scale of effort to the Gaudi temple in Barcelona and the musical work of William Bolcom inspired by William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience? Fascinating stuff. I love the concept of a penitential temple that will only be finished when penitence inspires enough people to give enough money to support its completion, even if that takes generations. We have eternity to get it right: how uplifting is that?
But with respect to Gates and these other efforts, first, let me say that my response is as a lover of the arts, as a loving and trained critic and consumer of inspired and crafted expression of the human soul. I’m not a supporter of all the arts, only the art that speaks to me, and if that makes me an elitist, so be it. Like Snoopy, I love mankind, it’s people that bug me, but there are certain people I love. If Snoopy were commenting on art, I think he would agree that the arts are a good thing, but most artists bore me; still there are certain efforts that touch my soul. The Gates project is in that category.
Second, let me say that my response is as a lover of the arts, not in my role as budget-minded economic development professional. The Gates achievement, to me, is all the more startling because it was funded, organized and pushed through bureaucratic challenges by the artists themselves. No NEA boondoggle, this was not the result of some half-baked social dropout getting hold of other people’s money to put up a monument to “what we all agree on.” The Christo/Jeanne Claude vision is almost aggressively personal. And I mean that in a good way. The two artists drove that vision to completion. They felt so strongly about the work’s impact that they worked for twenty-six years to make it happen.
In the NPR interviews, they point out that they have “only” completed some eighteen projects, that there are thirty-eight visions that have not come to life. They see “only;” I see eighteen large-scale life-changing projects. Eighteen. Wow.
In the end, this particular vision has come to life because Christo/Jeanne Claude’s efforts finally intersected with Michael Bloomberg’s term as mayor. Michael Bloomberg, entrepreneur extraordinare, whose concept of a system to aggregate information for traders was almost as ill-received, almost as difficult to execute as the Gates project. I’m not sure I would like Michael Bloomberg much if I met him in person, but I respect the person who has been able to build a computer system that is so critical on Wall Street, in London and in professional trading rooms everywhere that traders simply cannot do business without a “Bloomberg.” One has to wonder if Michael Bloomberg’s own experience driving his passion to product generated a sympathetic response when he saw the Gates proposal. I think it had to, and I think that Bloomberg is—in his own milieu—an artist.
To me, the personal passion behind this project—extending to its self-financed execution—is part of the art. The location in New York City is also part of the art, and the people who visit this installation are and will always be part of the art, as it will always be part of their experience and of who they are.
I want to see it, too. I want to remember it. I want to learn from it.