On The Gates: "A work of pure joy, a vast populist spectacle of good will and simple eloquence, the first great public art event of the 21st century." That's how Times art critic Michael Kimmelman described New York's largest public art project ever, Christo and Jeanne-Claude's The Gates. Made up of 7,500 gates hung with flowing saffron fabric, the work turns 23 miles of Central Park pathways into a meditative, colorful passageway. It reminds me of the robes of Thai Buddhist monks, the prayer flags that wave in the breezes of Ladakh or Tibet; while the artists eschew any such interpretation, it seems a work of healing for a city that's experienced such deep wounds.

The project is only up for two weeks more, then it comes down for good, a fact--along with a $20 million pricetag (paid for out of the artist's pockets)--that makes many question it's practicality. But a New York fourth-grader summed it up well: it doesn't have to be practical; it's art. "It's a waste of money, but it's fabulous. It brings happiness when you look at it." It's a touching statement to me, because art seems increasingly anomalous to contemporary culture: it stands alone as something that doesn't exist to serve the economy or perform a measurable task. And that's art's value. As Wendell Berry once wrote, "So, friends, every day do something that won't compute." Aesthetic opinions of The Gates aside, I think we could stand to learn its lesson. Berry's poem captures something true about the lyric absurdity and epic beauty of the project. The poem concludes:
As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn't go. Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

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