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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 March 14, 2005 5:26 PM


    The Gates as Caryatids - or at a minimum, The Gates as pillars of chic domestic labor. I have been thinking more and more about The Gates as an all out act of domestic labor - a repetitive, communal chore for those doing the assembling, those doing the dusting, and those doing the dismantling and packing. Despite the innovative, easy to assemble, cradle-to-cradle nature of the project, there was something very ho-hum domestic about the repetitive tinkering and fitting of pieces that were custom-sized but also quite modular in nature. We observed The Gates teams in Central Park like folks who were astonished to see someone do housework out in public, for all the world to see in a defiant act of art-curler abandon. To say that The Gates were meaningless, conjurs up sentiments that continue to circulate as housework is viewed as meaningless or mundane; conservation is still a sort of disciplne that we cannot get a grip on; and those who lovingly keep things tidy and efficient are deemed to be somewhat of a novelty. Perhaps this is why we pine for the handmade book as well? Honest labor continues to make us feel good about ourselves and the spine of the world around us.

    Posted by: abigail doan at March 14, 2005 11:31 PM

    I completely agree. The Gates were bookended by massive labor - setup and dismantling - that have been almost as well-documented as the 16-day event itself. And of course, there was the strange subculture of Gates workers, paid and volunteer, that patrolled the park - handing out fabric swatches, directing visitors to toilets and souvenirs, dispensing information, de-snagging the banners with their trademark tennis ball poles (this has become a trope in its own right). Comb the web and you find many amusing reports by "embedded" Gates workers... Then there are the hundreds of Central Park Conservancy workers, who have many strange tales to tell.

    Oddly enough, a few days after the Gates went up, I found myself at a little dinner party with a number of park workers (from the Conservancy). They had been grumbling bitterly about the Gates for months, but were all more or less charmed by them once they were fully installed and the crowds poured in.

    Posted by: ben vershbow at March 15, 2005 7:33 PM

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