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The Running Fences of Life

Bulgarian artist Christo and his French wife Jeanne-Claude always claimed that their works of art had no deeper meaning than their immediate aesthetic impact. They were all visually impressive and controversial as well. How stupid and pointless to put up a fence running through the Californian countryside for forty kilometers! The fence needed  200,000 m2 of nylon fabric, 2050 steel posts and 145 km of steel cable. All this effort, four years of planning, countless hours in various courts arguing the case for the fence to run through public and private lands, to put up this fairy tale structure for two weeks!

There was an exhibition in Vienna’s Secession art gallery documenting the four-year process that culminated in the installation of the 40 kilometer long running fence in California. The fences were undoubtedly beautiful, and their transient presence reminded the viewer of the purpose of the Mandala in Buddhism. After days or weeks of creating intricate patterns of a sand mandala, the sand is washed away in running water as a reminder of the impermanence of human existence.

There was a documentary film as part of the exhibit that showed some of the court cases brought by property owners who feared loss of privacy or destruction of their land by the fence builders. In one case a farmer testified against the fence builders using pragmatic arguments; waste of resources, labor and money, all for a short-lived work of so-called art. The farmer’s wife spoke on behalf of the artists with a simple story.

Your honor, I cook dinner for twelve people every day; my husband, my family and the farm hands. I take a lot of time and trouble to decorate the table and serve a beautiful meal. After each meal there is nothing left but a mess of dirty dishes. Does that mean my effort was not worthwhile? Of course not! I re-decorate the table every day. My daily effort is a labor of love. These artists deserve to have their fence, even if it’s only for two weeks.

Today’s blog is dedicated to all those out there building your own running fences in your daily lives. Keep building them in the assurance that your fences enhance the beauty of your own particular countryside, the private landscapes of your lives, even if only for a moment. Keep building those running fences as a labor of love and they will have lasting value despite their transience.

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