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March 31, 2005


on the last official day of The Gates, during the 7-hour marathon walk through the park with ashton, rebeca mendez, and adam eeuwens, rebeca and i talked at length about locating art in time rather than space. The Gates, rebeca pointed out are a perfect example of artwork that has to be experienced over time. Seems true enough. However if it's true, how come the photos people took of The Gates seem to be more compelling than the video. i think it's quite possible that this is an artifact of the fact that many of us have developed decent amateur photography skills during a life-time of photo taking, and simply haven't had enough experience shooting video. but there may be something else going on, specific to The Gates themselves. would love to know what people think about this? to prime the discussion pump, i've put up a bunch of video snapshots that a friend and i made. and here's a link to the Gates Memory photographs on Flickr.

Posted by bob stein at 3:36 PM | Comments (5)

more from the Lerner Gates underground

Originally uploaded by GatesMemoryProject.

I just had a brief email exchange with the mysterious authors of the Lerner Hall jape. I asked them how they got the idea. Like the prank itself, it was quite simple:

"We just sat around, and one of us (who had not left campus in a while and lamented the fact that they had not seen the gates) had the idea of doing it for the senior prank. Other than that, we got some orange tarps, some dowels, and some shower hooks, along with some structural planning and design, and that was it. Fin."

Posted by ben vershbow at 12:16 AM | Comments (1)

March 30, 2005

gates memory project in Time Out NY!


Posted by ben vershbow at 3:58 PM | Comments (0)

the scepter

Posted by ben vershbow at 10:51 AM | Comments (0)

March 29, 2005

invisible columbia pranksters

spectator gates.jpg spectator frontpage.jpg

An image of the fantastic Gates prank in Alfred Lerner Hall appeared today in the Columbia Spectator with a brief caption attributing the stunt to an underground group of seniors. It appears they snuck in yesterday at 1am, just as Lerner was closing, and quietly installed the banners. They finished at 4am and snuck back out. Above are the image and caption from the Spectator. I've also created a small photo set of my shots on Flickr.

Posted by ben vershbow at 12:32 PM | Comments (0)

March 28, 2005

the gates at columbia

Columbia's class of '05 has executed a great prank at Alfred Lerner Hall, the main student center on campus. In spite of truly foul weather, I managed to get some pics (captions link to Flickr).

Lerner Gates 1

Lerner Gates 2

Lerner Gates 3

Posted by ben vershbow at 5:24 PM | Comments (0)

The Fun of Making Fun

The Gates had an unmistakable joie de vivre; they were about fun, and parodies of the Gates attest to that. Their puzzling non-art/art status, their exuberant orange, their rhythmic repetition, their grand scale and defiantly ephemeral nature inspired a crop of brilliant parodies that entertained supporters and detractors alike.

The John Stewart show's hilarious commentary on the gates can be viewed On Lisa Rein's Radar.

Artist and photographer, khang kijarro nguyen is responsible for the toothpick gates executed february 2005 in central park, a site specific art installation coinciding with another site specific art installation of strikingly similar appearance in the back ground.

The miniature, Sommerville gates or Hargo's gates, as they were called, were perhaps the most widely-known. The website for the installation, which traces the pathways of creator Geoff Hargadon's cat through his Sommerville apartment, got 5.5 million hits in one week and Hargadon received about 3,000 e-mails from fans and academics.

In an equally hilarious tongue-in-cheek associated press article published on MSNBC's website Hargadon said that his project wasn't intended to mock the Central Park installation, which Hargadon visited last week and enjoyed. His target is the monumental hype…one review, which called "The Gates" the first great public art creation of the 21st century, pushed Hargadon over the edge. Soon he was at The Home Depot buying materials for his own project.

The article went on to say that Hargadon has no plans to make money from his gates. However, he does plans to auction one gate to benefit the Massachusetts College of Art.

"From what I can tell, it's majorly important for him to keep it pure," said friend and co-worker, Bart Smith.

The Sommerville Gates provoked discussion on dozens of blogs including, The Conversation Café and Brian Bernard's blog. Brian is a big fan of the Sommerville Gates and is assembling an archives of all the photos he can find, a sort of sister project to our Gates Memory archives.

I also love the simple parodies that focus on the orange color and the repeated motif such as the snack crackers parody.

Many visitors took pleasure in finding themselves or others costumed in similar saffron hues, as many of the photos uploaded to Flickr including Rochelle Ratner's shot of a man with orange scarf and pamplet attest. Some took it a step further, celebrating the Gates by participating in an orange-hued conga line. One Gates fan even created her own line of "Gates Viewing Attire."

Posted by kim white at 1:22 PM | Comments (0)

gaming the gates

Fantastic photo from IT IN place - the Gates as seen on the new PlayStation Portable (thanks, Alex).

"Max plays with the PSP" - Damon Itin '05

The only Gates games I can think of are pretty dumb - dueling installation crews, tennis ball pole jousting, or racing gates (imagine Super Mario Kart with Central Park Conservancy golf carts). But seriously, the archive should be viewable on smaller screens.

Posted by ben vershbow at 11:31 AM | Comments (0)

March 26, 2005

Video Gates

Via Unmediated, Flickr for Video:

Mefeedia has inconspicuously turned into Flickr for video, at least in terms of tag usage. Several of us that use Mefeedia are putting out a call for people to add videos with the tag "gates", in honor of Christo and Jean Claude's Central Park exhibit.

You can see the start of the compilation here. More and more videos will be added over the next two weeks and we are encouraging anyone who has video of The Gates posted on their site to submit it to Mefeedia.

If you use an RSS reader, you can add this feed to keep up with any new videos that show up with the same tag.

Via Julia Set

Posted by michal migurski at 11:31 AM | Comments (1)

March 25, 2005

a single place can be bottomless

Last week, Flickr photographer ejmachad posted three luminous photos of Gapstow Bridge. There are two versions of each, identical as far as I can tell. We have over 2,700 photographs now tagged with "gatesmemory." Many are new uploads, and many are photographs that were already on Flickr before we announced the project. For the latter, some simply added the new tag to all their Gates-related photos. Others made a selection. Already, people are thinking as curators, as editors - it's interesting to see how the project added another layer to the Flickr system. ejmachad only uploaded these photos of Gapstow Bridge. He/she may have taken dozens or hundreds of other Gates photographs, in as many other locations in the park, but something clearly came together here. There's a nice feeling of having settled into one place, drawing on its full depth.

Posted by ben vershbow at 1:49 PM | Comments (0)

The Gates in the News

This is the first in a series of posts summarizing news stories about the Gates. So far, they seem to be breaking down into three catagories: money (how much they cost and how many tourist dollars they brought in), their value as artwork and their "meaning", and the community response to the Gates.

Religious Leaders Draw Spiritual Meaning from 'The Gates'
By Adam Phillips, Voice of America, 11 March 2005
Details about the interfaith event titled, "Spirit of the Gates," which took place in Central Park on February 21, 2005 and drew religious leaders and worshippers from a variety of faiths.

Christo's Gates: A Little Creaky
By Blake Gopnik, Washington Post, Sunday, February 13, 2005; Page D01
Blake Gopnik contemplates the meaning of the Gates.

Christo's Gates in Central Park
By Carolyn Weaver, News VOA Com, New York City, 15 February 2005.

Embedded in Christo's "Gates"
by Deborah Ripley, artnet
Deborah Ripley, a NY art dealer, writes about the Gates from the perspective of a Central Park Conservancy volunteer.

Christo's Gates: Big $ for Big Apple:
Artist's central park project brought in $254 million in economic activity for the city: mayor.
March 3, 2005: 3:58 PM EST
CNN Money reports on the financial windfall created by Christo and Jeanne-Claude's "free" art display.

Christo's 'Gates': Lots of green for the orange
By Mike McIntire, The New York Times (as seen on the International Herald Tribune online), Saturday, March 5, 2005

Christo's 'Gates' Open in Central Park
this page gives you a listing of the stories NPR ran on the Christo project and an opportunity to listen to them. Stories include:
Christo's 'Gates:' Preparing for a Short Stay by Margot Adler, All Things Considered, January 28, 2005
Miles-Long Christo Art Exhibit to Open in Central Park by Neda Ulaby, Morning Edition, February 9, 2005
Central Park's Bright New Clothes Talk of the Nation, February 10, 2005, with guests Adam Sternbergh and Robert Storr.
Christo's 'Gates' Finally Open by Robert Smith, All Things Considered, February 12, 2005
Christo Does Central Park by Margot Adler, Weekend Edition - Saturday, February 12, 2005

Awe, disdain for Christo's 'Gates' Reuters article, seen on Fairfax Digital (an Australian News Organization), February 14, 2005
Reports on the various reactions to the Gates.

New York buzzing over Christo's 'Gates' CBC Arts, Tue, 15 Feb 2005 13:14:28 EST
A Canadian news service reports on the Gates

Posted by kim white at 8:29 AM | Comments (0)

March 23, 2005

Their Stories

The truly wonderful thing about the web is the opportunities it creates for networks and connections. Stories culled from personal blogs--those glorious online self-portraits that offer interesting "peeks" into the blogger's thought-life, home-life, and work-life--will be a textual counterpart to our Flickr image bank. What makes this "chapter" particularly interesting, is that we plan to leave the stories in their original context (for now at least). You can access them through links to the personal weblogs themselves.

If you have a story, please post the url in our comment section.

Three wonderful essays from Lorianne DiSabato's blog "Hoarded Ordinaries"

Mr. Hell's Kitchen

"and i quote" (favorite quotes collected by Mr. Hell's Kitchen)

Korijane about a wedding she witnessed beneath the Gates

The Gothamist


Satan's Laundromat


And the detractors:
Chris Dykstra

B After the Fact

I'll be starting another thread tomorrow archiving News Articles about the Gates. Here's a sneak peek:
WNYC transcript of a story about a procession of Buddhist Monks through the Gates

Posted by kim white at 2:03 PM | Comments (0)

March 22, 2005

gates rain

gates rain

Originally uploaded by joeholmes.

Image of the day.

Posted by kim white at 12:21 PM | Comments (0)

March 21, 2005

"simplified images"

Originally uploaded by lawroberts

Posted by ben vershbow at 4:00 PM | Comments (0)

March 17, 2005

The Gates, on average

brevity writes:

I wrote a program to blend Flickr images which share the same tags. It's partially inspired by the work of Jason Salavon.

The Gates

Posted by michal migurski at 11:39 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

images of the day

1. rain and saffron - originally uploaded by Thom.

2. held - originally uploaded by Thom.

Posted by ben vershbow at 5:18 PM | Comments (0)

Blogging the Experience

"It's only the gates. A work of art of joy and beauty," -- Jeanne-Claude.

When their creators, Christo and Jeanne-Claude, declared that the Gates had no meaning, they were, in this writers estimation, attempting to get the viewing public to ignore the art-world preoccupation with capital M "meaning" and instead think of art as a catalyst for experience, connection, and pleasure.

My favorite personal essay on the Gates comes from David Patrick Columbia's "New York Social Diary." It's a marvelous explaination of why the Gates are great. Plus, he makes his observations while lunching with NY art-world celebs on a fabulous Central Park South terrace--stunning photos of the bird's-eye view included.

"Meaningful Connections" Blog comes up first on a Google search for "Christo's Gates." It has a small selection of reader experiences. Dan Zukowski's entry was particularly interesting. It documents the conversation he had with himself as he attempted to ignore the hype and experience that Gates as honestly as possible. Here is an excerpt.

Crossing Madison Avenue and 96th street - two blocks from Central Park:

Looming larger - I like the orange color - saffron they call it. Now I see lots of gates. Nice - This is interesting. OK OK A big population of gates. OK Look at that! I see my first shot. See those three gates against the big tree - OK- I feel engaged.

And there were several blogs by people whose experience of the Gates was only through second-hand information, the photographs and stories of others.

Posted by kim white at 11:22 AM | Comments (0)

March 16, 2005

the Gates recycled

gatesmulch.jpg Newsday ran a great article yesterday describing the recycling of the Gates in Nazareth, Pennsylvania at Nicos Polymers & Grinding Inc. Evidently, they are taking great pains to ensure that no materials are stolen while awaiting destruction, and that the nylon mulch and re-ground PVC pipe do not become collector's items in their own right (though this seems inevitable).

From a particularly vivid passage in the article:

"Delivery trucks back up to the 180,000-square-foot plant, revealing orange poles stacked floor to ceiling in snug, honeycomb-like symmetry. The other day, the driver of a saffron-colored forklift was off-loading 120 poles at a time while another worker, Hilberto Mendez, handled the grinding.

"Mendez plucked a 16-foot pole from a neat stack and slid it into the maw-like chute of a Cumberland grinder, which distantly resembled an industrial-sized Cuisinart. The grinder swallowed the pole whole, as if it was a 16-foot carrot stick, and with a grating crash chewed it into lightweight orange "gravel," which it spit into a 3-foot cardboard cube."

This ties in nicely to the "gates as labor" discussion that began here the other day.

(Photo by Rick Smith)

Posted by ben vershbow at 5:27 PM | Comments (2)

image of the day

the gates again
Originally uploaded by Hugo VT.
Central Park has always been a sort of city dweller's fantasy, aided in no small part by the majestic West Side skyscrapers (the San Remo being one of the finest). The Gates took this several steps further. From certain vantages, they seemed like a royal processional leading to these strange, looming castles.

A number of photographers have chosen to emphasize the Gates' bright color against the wintry landscape by photoshopping the image to produce a black-and-white background. This one does it particularly well.

Posted by ben vershbow at 5:10 PM | Comments (1)

March 15, 2005

gates go AWOL

The Gates were once bound by time and space (16 days in Central Park). But no more. With thousands upon thousands of shots from every conceivable vantage, we've reached critical mass. The Gates have broken the boundaries of the park and are now officially at large. Imagine the Great Wall of China dotted with billowing saffron gates, or gates lining the shores of Lake Michigan, or gates along a jetty, receding into the ocean. Or imagine an astronaut on the moon holding not a flag, but the signature tennis ball-capped de-snagging pole... This afternoon, we cobbled together a couple of Gates remixes and came up with ideas for dozens more. This could open up a great new chapter of the project. Create your own, post them on Flickr with the "gatesmemory" tag, and comment here with a link.


"2005: A Gates Odyssey," or, "The Dawn of Man"



Posted by ben vershbow at 5:31 PM | Comments (0)

Games you can play

The Gates celebrate repetition. Each gate alone was an unremarkable object. Put 7,500 of them together, and they effect a radical change in perception.

The Gates Memory Project is also about repetition, of photographs instead of physical objects. Each collected image has unique traits - time, place, photographer, subject, light - that can be abstracted and appreciated for their membership in a set. When I look at the 2,000 images that have been submitted so far, I'm amazed by the formal games you can play. Photos of the same place, or photos at the same time. Iconic viewing angles. Single gate against blue sky. Saffron fabric against sunshine. Rows of gates receding to a vanishing point. Rows of gates crisscrossing the frame. Gates framing people. Gates framing other gates. Gates photos in a pile ("gatesmemory" at Felix Turners' postcard browser), gates browsable by tag.

How about Gates on a map? Collective memory stimulated by shared activity and a collaborative effort to annotate gatesmemory images by location. I hope that project participants would willing to lend a hand with a widespread spatial annotation project. All it would take would be few interface modifications to Mappr and participants familiar with the park.

I am in the strange position of having never seen Central Park without its saffron makeover, but the reactions of visitors made it clear that it was a changed environment. Our host in New York made a point of leading us through parts that remained ungated, to provide a brief view of the bare park in winter.

Posted by michal migurski at 6:08 AM | Comments (2)

March 14, 2005

the gates and the human figure

At its best, parody can uncover the essential truth. These funny send-ups challenge the oft-trumpeted complaint that the Gates were meaningless, insisting on a basic affinity with the human figure (just as classical columns evoke so many Atlases raising the roof). It would be interesting to see this explored in a more serious way.

The photos are:

  • The Gates as interpreted by one man. Originally uploaded by tokyofortwo.

  • the_gates Originally uploaded by brooklyngirl.

    Posted by ben vershbow at 5:26 PM | Comments (2)

    hacking with permission - experimental color picker

    colorpickr.jpg Flickr's philosophy of sharing runs through and through. Not only does it apply to the thousands of photos people have uploaded there, but also to the fundamental building blocks of its unique platform (the API, or the code describing what happens in Flickr and how). Flickr is very open to development, and maintains a sort of approved hack policy - an interesting model for what could be described as semi open source. Take a look at their services page to learn about some of the wonderful Flickr applications people have made simply by shooting a quick proposal to the exceedingly friendly powers that be. One of the best-known examples is Jim Bumgardner's Color Pickr, which resembles a painter's palette, with circular dabs of color in a multitude of shades spinning through the ROYGBIV spectrum. Click a color area, or adjust brightness with a slide bar to the side, and a dozen or so photos right in that sweet spot will arrange themselves around the wheel. The photos are drawn from the color fields photo pool, a page on Flickr assembled by devotees of the project.

    As we build this dynamic archive of the Gates, we should survey not only existing visualizations but also the tools we have at our disposal. Color Pickr is an inspiring example of what can be done with the Flickr architecture.

    Posted by ben vershbow at 12:52 PM | Comments (0)

    March 13, 2005

    Image of the Day: Sunday

    Untitled (Art)

    Originally uploaded by the-vorlon.

    The landscape framed by Gates.

    Posted by kim white at 5:05 PM | Comments (0)

    March 12, 2005

    image of the day - saturday

    texture. Originally uploaded by Thom.

    The camera here catches what I don't remember seeing with the naked eye.

    Posted by dan visel at 4:36 PM | Comments (0)

    March 11, 2005

    great Gates parody

    by Mya Bell (click image to go to site)

    Posted by ben vershbow at 6:13 PM | Comments (0)

    the Gates through Central Park benches

    demuth five.jpg

    Here's my favorite of the day (thanks much to DogFromSPACE..) Reminds me of Charles Demuth's "Figure Five in Gold."

    Posted by ben vershbow at 5:54 PM | Comments (0)

    March 10, 2005

    visualizing the archive

    To begin discussing in earnest how we might visualize/organize the archive we are compiling, it seems like a good idea to do a quick survey of existing examples. I mention a few below, but to get this going, please point us to other examples, and comment on what we've mentioned here.

    The most stunning visualization we've seen so far is the New York Times interactive feature, The Gates: Christo's New York Moment, designed by Ty Amhad-Taylor. In addition to a four-minute audio review by Times chief art critic Michael Kimmelman, the piece provides a fantastic map of the park with three possible views: a basic scheme with dotted lines tracing the path of the Gates, and two aerial photographs, before the Gates and after. Designed as a user's guide for the 16 days when the Gates actually stood, the map includes a legend and corresponding markers for "recommended views," information booths, food, and "warming stations." In a sidebar to the right can be found the entire map in miniature, with a drag-able zoom window. Certain parts of the map contain links to panoramic views. Click these and the screen bisects into a lovely two-panel stack, with an interactive panoramic photo scrolling above the map section. The screenshot I've posted here shows a panoramic image from the Harlem Meer.


    The Central Park Conservancy, which manages the park, has a "virtual tour" of the Gates up on their site - essentially a boring old slideshow, whose one redeeming feature is that it notes very specific geographical locations for each photograph. This suggests the possibility of mapping the archive (Mappr folks, we're hoping you can weigh in on this..).


    The last example I'll mention is simply a fun montage program we came across. Plug in "christo" and "gates" and you get something like this. It's worth mentioning because we should keep our eyes open for existing visualizations that could be applied to, or adapted for, our project.


    Check out also this post on the Flickr blog about parodies of the Gates. And also this interesting analysis posted on the Flickr Central forum on "the emerging 'genres' when it comes to 'shooting the gates.'"

    Again, please comment and refer us to other examples..

    Posted by ben vershbow at 4:04 PM | Comments (3)

    March 9, 2005

    nearly 1,000 photos in just 24 hours!

    After just one full revolution of the earth, the Gates Memory Project has amassed almost 1,000 images on its Flickr page. Thanks to all who have submitted so far...

    Posted by ben vershbow at 5:10 PM | Comments (0)

    The Gates: An Experiment in Collective Memory

    So . . . .about two weeks ago I had a dream, (actually more of a nightmare) in which I was asked to judge a contest to choose "the best photograph of the Gates" from among three million orange photos. Over the next few days, however, the more I thought about it,I became intrigued by the idea of seeing people's different creative solutions to photographing the gates.gates close up.jpg

    [Note: I loved the Gates. Ashton (partner-in-crime) and I were in the park almost every day we were in the city, we even gave a party for 150 friends who came from all over the world to walk through the park at dawn (see nifty video by alex itin, orange you glad).

    On the last day Ashton and I walked through the park for seven straight hours with Rebeca Mendez and Adam Euwens -- talking almost the whole time about the phenomenon of the Gates -- as an art work that requires significant effort on the part of its audience; like all of Christo and Jeanne-Claude's work, it requires you to be at a certain latitude and longitude at a specific moment in time; you need to see it from different vantage points at different times of the day; as Ashton said, "there are as many views of the Gates as footsteps in the park."

    And of course you talk endlessly to the people you meet along the way.

    Early that last day, high up on the Harlem Meer, we came upon a big man with red orange hair who was quickly slipping a big coat over his obviously naked body. His friend had just as obviously been taking pictures. Ashton and Rebeca immediately realized that they were taking pictures of his orange pubic hair against the backdrop of the Gates. Impulsively I mentioned that I was planning to sponsor a contest for the best amateur photograph of the Gates. Surprisingly they wrote down a URL for the competition I made up on the spot. A few other times during the day I mentioned this to people who seemed to be taking interesting photos. Without any prompting, they also wrote down the URL.

    So the next day, Monday, while sitting around the table with Kim, Dan, and Ben, my colleagues at the Institute for the Future of the Book, I mentioned the whole Gates photo idea and to my delight everyone thought it would fit in perfectly with our experiments in the area of open-ended networked "books."

    Voila -- the beginning of the Gates Memory Project which we are launching today at It's quite a bit more ambitious than the original (and impossible) idea of choosing "the best photo." Now we are aiming to to harness the creativity and insight of thousands to build a kind of collective memory machine -- one that is designed not just for the moment, but as a gates in distance.jpglasting and definitive document of the Gates and our experience of them. As Ben Vershbow says in the press release announcing the project, "The photographs are a jumping off point for further exploration. Ultimately, we are interested in collecting anything that can be shared over the web - film, audio, text - parodies and remixes."

    While the photos and stories are being collected, the institute will encourage discussion and debate on how best to present the archives in hopes of finding new, unexpected ways to view and bring meaning to the content. The institute also welcomes the possibility of collaboration with designers, developers and web curators. This project is the beginning of a long-term exploration for us. Through this work, we are asking: how do we use social software to create works that are in the spirit of the web - i.e. free-form, ad hoc, always evolving, and driven by people's enthusiasm to share - but are also edited and shaped into something of lasting value? It is that tension - between frozen and fluid works - that we aim to explore. We are excited to see the ideas people will bring to the table.

    See the complete call for the project HERE.

    Posted by bob stein at 1:07 PM | Comments (0)

    March 8, 2005

    introducing the Gates Memory Project blog

    What are we building? How are we going to build it? How should it be organized? What should it look like?

    An integral part of the Gates Memory Project is a public space for discussion of these meta issues. Everyone will have a chance to suggest possible directions and designs for the project. Some will bring technical knowledge to the table. Others will advise more on our conceptual bearings. Others will just come along for the ride. We'll also examine the process of building a work of collective memory in digital space, using the Gates as a pivot point for larger contemplations. How do we use social software (like Flickr) to create works that are in the spirit of the "infinite game" of the web - i.e. free-form, ad hoc, always evolving, and driven by people's enthusiasm to share - but are also edited and shaped into something of lasting value?

    It could be argued that the web is itself one enormous collective memory. Like memory, it is in a constant state of growth, transformation and decay. Like memory, it is layered, it sprawls, and is traversed both by brightly lit boulevards and shadowed alleyways. To cope with this enigma, humans have always created works that help fix or focus the memory. An obvious example is a book, painting, photograph, or film. Similarly, in public space, we have museums, memorials, and monuments. Certainly, there was something monumental about the Gates. But while some monuments fix a spike in the earth, as if to say "here it was," others establish a frame, or space, in which memories can move and reverberate. This second sort of monument, much more like the Gates, is a good place to start thinking about what we are trying to build with this project: a work with defined dimensions that still allows for unpredictable movement within, and which, like a great acoustical structure, is designed to resonate.

    And of course, the blog will also serve as a forum for discussion of the Gates themselves - their design, their politics, their message, their role in the life of the city, their place in the larger mediascape.. And it will be a place to offer stories and personal meditations on those sixteen days when the Gates stood.

    Posted by ben vershbow at 4:02 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack