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Running Fence (1977)

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How to erect a 24-mile long silk fence is as interesting as the fence itself
10 May 2007 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Second in the series by the Maysles brothers documenting the monuments/sculptures of Christo, whose art projects are landscape-scaled, and more "pop" performance art designed to question how we relate to art in the public sphere, especially when it's as oblique, non-political (at least, that is what he would claim), and neutral as running a fence through a landscape.

Granted, this is about a 24-mile silk fence that runs through Marin and Sonoma countryside to the (and into the) sea, that Christo erected in the '70s. Much of the 58-minute running time it taken up by his local fights to get permits and permission to run through ranches, over roads, and into the beach property. In the process, there is actually very little discussion about what it all means - what Christo's stance or manifesto might be on the object.

There's some overheard conversations by the locals of whether or not it's "art" but the film isn't really interested in exploring or defending that. Instead it's an objective document of the engineering feat of doing this large project, against a deadline, with under-trained but willing local workers (whom all seem very gung-ho). Maysles's objective style serves the topic well. The fence was there for 2 weeks, and its mere presence challenges us as to how we think about it.

Is it sculpture? Is it decoration? Is it functional? In any case, it highlights the countryside like no other man-made object could. This film documents its creation in an unassuming and non-judgmental manner, and has some great footage of an event (or is it a "happening"?) that is lost to the ages.


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