by Marisa Zemesarajs ’15
Although Christo and Jeanne Claude’s work is visually impressive, the artists have repeatedly denied that their projects contain any deeper meaning than their immediate aesthetic appeal. The purpose of their art, they contend, is simply to create works that consequently establish new ways of seeing familiar objects we encounter during the course of busy days. It is here that it is worth remembering Marcel Duchamp, an important theorist in the onslaught of the modern art movement; once stating that in the future an artist would only point. In a world packed to the brim with meaningful objects, both on historical and deeply personal levels, the main role of the artist is not to make something new, because at some point things can no longer be original, all that’s left to do is alter the way in which we perceive the existent. If we think about the statements made by Christo himself, and those of his predecessor Duchamp (whom he certainly drew inspiration from), we see the way in which a computer exists to be much altered in “Computer.” Here, we see that a computer is not merely a three dimensional device we use to assist us with this task or that task. By placing a representation of a computer on paper, framing it and displaying it as something that is special, it becomes something special. How about this scenario: if someone got a phone call a minute after viewing this piece and if even just for a brief second they looked at that tangible, usable object as a work of art, then the element of perceptual alteration theorized by Duchamp and put into motion by Christo is quite meaningful and useful in the present day. It is in this way that we see how much our definition of art has changed and also how the dynamic pieces themselves, through saying so little, inherently change us by drawing out so much.
While I did say that I wasn’t too keen on picking apart this piece, one element in particular speaks to the artistic motivation of Christo- the use of wrapping. Christo, more popularly, wraps much larger things– buildings, trees, well-known landmarks, etc. By concealing things, if only temporarily, Christo hoped to draw attention to things that were commonly overlooked. In the context of this post even, a computer. The use of concealment as a way of getting people to look again at something they once knew so well, but no longer know at all, due to routine or something similar is a very witty concept. It is certainly true that when everyone knows what a thing looks like, that they have, in fact, stopped noticing it. Things we see everyday become invisible. To end this post I want to quote the artist himself, who once said, “I think it takes much greater courage to create things to be gone than to create things that will remain.” If this is the case, then maybe my initial attraction to modern art is one that is somewhat universal (not that it needs to be, I should add.) Ultimately, I love the “pop” of an oversimplified, abstracted piece of art, like Kerouac’s Sal Paradise who is fascinated with “the mad ones” who “burn, burn, burn like fabulous roman candles exploding like spiders across the sky.” The effect of Christo’s “Computer” is oddly similar, if taking into account the words of the artist; perhaps art should be like an explosion, with a dramatic blast capturing the viewer followed by calm.