“[It is] one of the most marvelous books of contemporary art in the 20th Century. There are many works of art in the 20th Century, and I am an artist and I project only the work of art. These 280 pages are a work of art, with the nature, with the people, with the traffic, with the birds, with the ocean, and with the sky.”

Christo

You probably know Christo as the artist who (in collaboration with his wife, Jeanne-Claude) hung The Gates in Central Park -after 25 years of public review. They wrapped the Reichstag in Berlin and the Pont Neuf in Paris. For two weeks in 1975, he ran a fabric fence through Marin and Sonoma, from Highway 101 into the sea.

The book he’s reviewing above is the “Final Environmental Impact Report, Running Fence” by Environmental Science Associates. In two volumes the EIR describes the Fence and what it might do to the environment. It lays out impacts on archeology, traffic, air quality, energy use, soils, water, noise, and wildlife.

The Fence is described in the EIR as

“18 feet high and more than 24 miles long. The structure would be essentially an assembly of 18-foot by 62- foot white nylon panels, supported by cables and poles, the latter anchored in soil or rock.”

 

In reality, there were two aspects of the work.

Obviously, there was the material object, which Christo, in the EIR, describes like this:

“The physical reality of the Running Fence will be a beautiful one. The fabric is a fragile material, like clothing or skin. And, like the structures the nomads built in the desert, it will have the special beauty of impermanence. The fabric is a light-conductor for the sunlight, and it will give shape to the wind. It will go over the hills and into the sea, like a ribbon of light.”

 

The other part, also described by Christo:

“Three years of teamwork, three years of study with engineers, surveyors, botanists, geologists. The Running Fence project also involves politicians and businessmen, supervisors and artists, students and – especially – the local ranchers and landowners.”

Running Fence was fiercely debated and this debate was an important part of the art work.

Pro: “Running Fence will depict the evolution of man from the sea, his enormous efforts to survive and build on the land, and the ultimate destruction of that for which he has strived with such intensity for so very long.”

Con: “It will bring tourists into the county and make it a crummy Coney Island.”

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Those of us involved in planning and development usually view this process as an unfortunate series of steps on the way to a building or a plan. But there is an art to it and theatre too.

The Running Fence Environmental Impact Report is also an important part of the work.

I looked for a long time for a copy of the Report and found only one: for $750, listed by an antiquarian bookseller in La Jolla. But I got a copy, and you can too, by downloading it from the Smithsonian’s website, at

http://americanart.si.edu/exhibitions/online/runningfence/eir.pdf

 

    

 

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