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An interrogation of Christo and Jeanne-Calude’s The Gates, Central Park, New York 1979-2005, or a spectre of Socialist Realism in the new economy Watt, Deborah J.

Abstract

This thesis examines artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude's recent art installation, The Gates. Central Park. New York. 1979-2005. I argue that the urban political processes that gave rise to The Gates. Central Park. New York. 1979-2005 underscore the event's performative and material attributes. I read Christo and Jeanne-Claude's recent work as both symptomatic and synoptic of the social and spatial politics of the new economy through its display of labour, leisure, the park and the city. Through its discreet visual elements and process of production, The Gates. Central Park. New York. 1979-2005 took on numerous characteristics of the urban imperatives of the new economy, particularly entrepreneurial and creative cities scripts. I dissect the complexities of this event in three chapters. The first chapter examines transitions in artists' mode of production from the 1960's to the present. This chapter emphasizes the different forms of post-industrial labour that the artists have used in their practice since 1969. The second chapter analyzes Christo and Jeanne-Claude's 1980 proposal for, and the City of New York's 1981 rejection of The Gates. Central Park. New York. 1979- 2005. I emphasize transitions in urban cultural politics in New York as a means of understanding the city's 1981 rejection and 2005 embrace of the event. The third chapter presents and ethnographic account of the installation in February 2005. I examine how the form of the event effectively smoothed over and reinforced a normative field of contemporary urban social space. These chapters show in different ways, the relationship between Christo and Jeanne Claude's art practices and dramatic changes in urban cultural politics over the past three decades.

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