But the Devil whoops, as he whooped of old: "It's clever, but is it Art?"
- Rudyard Kipling
The Conundrum of the Workshops
Back in 1968, internationally acclaimed environmental artists Christo and his wife Jeanne-Claude were invited to give a lecture in Oz. Non, they said, we will do a work instead. Well, I don’t know if they said it in those terms but that is what happened, the work being carried out in 1969.
Christo and spouse were famous for wrapping things in plastic.
Not like this:
More like this:
In fact, exactly like that because that is the Reichstag after they wrapped it.
Jeanne-Claude died in 2009 aged 74, Christo continues wrapping.
Some of Christo and Jeanne-Calude’s famous works
Running Fence, California 1976
Surrounded Islands, Miami 1983
A future project, “Over the River”, the horizontal suspension of reflective, translucent fabric panels above the Arkansas River for a distance of 11 km, has resulted in local opposition and a court case by property owners. There are also concerns at the effect on the environment. It was due to have commenced in 2015.
Planning drawings for Over the River
A lot has been written about what the works mean. Many interpret a wealth of meaning and symbolism, but Christo and Jeanne-Claude have repeatedly denied that their projects contain any deeper meaning than their immediate aesthetic impact.
They have also always declined sponsorship, using millions of dollars to fund each work from the sale of preliminary sketches and other artworks from their early careers.
Which brings us back to NSW 1969.
Over a period of four weeks, more than 100 workers (including 15 professional mountain climbers) and 11 volunteers (architecture and art students from the University of Sydney and East Sydney Technical College) put in over 17 000 hours to wrap the coast of Little Bay in plastic. Little Bay is about 14 kilometres south east of the Sydney CBD.
The wrapped area was approximately 2.4 kilometres (1.5 miles) long, 46 to 244 metres (150 to 800 feet) wide, 26 metres (85 feet) high at the northern cliffs, and at sea level at the southern sandy beach. One million square feet (90 000 square metres) of erosion-control fabric (a synthetic, woven fibre usually manufactured for agricultural purposes) was used for the wrapping, along with 56.3 kilometres (35 miles) of polypropylene rope, 3.8 centimetres (1.5 inches) in diameter. Ramset guns fired 25 000 charges of fasteners, threaded studs and clips to secure the rope to the rocks.
These days there may have been a greater sensitivity to environmental damage but then again, perhaps not, as evidenced by a large amount of support for the Over the River project on the basis that it will being in tourists, or should I write touri$t$.
Christo directs the wrapping of Little Bay
Jeanne-Claude and Christo visited Sydney in 207 and paid a visit to the site they had wrapped 40 years earlier:
The last word should go to John Kaldor, then a young art student, who used his scholarship funds to invite Christo to Australia. Now a businessman and art patron, he said the Little Bay project opened Australia's eyes to contemporary art. "It showed people that art doesn't have to hang on walls in a gallery … Internationally, it made people aware that there were interesting things happening in Australia."