Late Night Under The Gates

by Alice Woodward

Revolution #1, May 1, 2005, posted at

The gates were sensual and surreal. Even at night the city is a flood of noise, but the gates had a silence and a soft motion. They seem in tune to the winds, and the city air. Their color was like so many sunrises I’ve missed and familiar objects in far away places. A sari in India, or Italian drapes. Evoking tastes of fresh oranges, cheese, and pumpkins. Structures like construction signs, monkey bars, and totem poles. They had symmetry, repetition, and surprise. They contained a life and story of their own. A size that was difficult to conceive even once you’d experienced it, and a human connection between those who imagined them, produced them and erected them, and walked, ran, dreamed, and drifted through them. They were secret trails on a treasure map, or a quiet moment with a book, sitting by an open window in the afternoon.

More concretely, the gates were a significant contribution to art and culture. In a society narrowly focused on profit and competition, there is scarcely room for the masses of people to explore art and get into ideas. The gates made this widely accessible for a short period of time. What’s more it brought to the forefront exciting questions and debate about what is good or bad art and what is the role of art, and how do we experience it. Questions that, in a communist society, will not just make occasional cameos or be left to the intellectual elite, but will be ongoing widespread debate that is humorous and serious, productive and imaginative; it will engage people on a high level and play a real role in society like never before.

Following the story of The Gates and its ongoing response from critics, artists, and the masses, was a taste of this potential.

I felt a deep connection walking beneath the drifting panels, reading articles everyday, and tossing ideas around with friends. I thought of my parents and their story of road tripping to see Christo’s Fence, and all of the creativity and rebellion of their generation. I thought of fellow filmmakers trying to carry forward artistic theory and expression. Breaking boundaries with a new and evolving technology.

I thought of shadows in the afternoon and the longing you feel, gazing, trying to look through a fabric that is so close to transparent, but you continue to see color and silhouettes. Brilliant and solid.

I won’t forget the late-night walk I took beneath The Gates in the cold winter New York City air. Feeling acutely the familiarity and foreignness of such a city. Enjoying the quiet company of a comrade and the laughter of our friends in the distance, weaving in and out, through the warm glow of the drifting gates.