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In what may be the most clever inside-art joke to appear since Donald Trump’s win of the US presidency, conceptual artist Luis Camnitzer is asking the President-elect to turn his proposed border wall with Mexico into an artwork by Christo.
The request comes in the form of a Change.org petition, which as of this writing has 518 signatures. “COMMISSION CHRISTO WITH AN ORANGE RUNNING FENCE THAT SEPARATES THE U.S. FROM MEXICO,” reads the title — a proposition that seems to actually mash up two of Christo’s most famous projects done with his late wife, Jeanne-Claude. In 1976, the couple erected “Running Fence,” a 24.5-mile-long streak of white nylon panels billowing through California’s Sonoma and Marin Counties. In 2005, the pair took over Central Park with “The Gates,” which consisted of 7,503 hanging saffron fabric panels. The latter may be where Camnitzer’s suggestion of orange comes from.
“Please commission U.S. artist Christo’s [sic] with the creation of a new a version of his Running Fence to separate the U.S. from Mexico,” writes Camnitzer, who is Uruguayan, in the petition. “[I]t would transform a racist project into a public art event, and help improve the image of the U.S. with a cultural veneer.”
The suggestion is hilarious, not least because it seems to pinpoint perfectly the dynamics of soft power, thus becoming eerily plausible in today’s twisted world (more plausible, at least, than the suggestion to turn the wall into a pink homage to Luis Barragán). And one imagines that Christo himself is likely a master of bureaucracy at this point, having spent his entire career navigating it (the date range for “The Gates” is 1979–2005); he’d certainly be a good person to have on your team.
That said, Christo’s projects are as well known these days for their spare aesthetics as for the consistent criticism and opposition they draw. And so, like much else, the artistic fence would probably, ultimately still fail to endear the US to anyone.