That last article I wrote for Cracked, 5 Works of Art That Can Probably Kill You, had a bit of difficulty getting approved.
The editorial staff decided in their weekly meeting that the concept was too far out there. When they finally did approve it, months later, it was under the condition that I include Christo’s Umbrellas as number one on the list. The reasoning being that more people had heard of it, and that they had actually killed a few people. I didn’t exactly love it, mostly because the umbrellas themselves were not all that crazy, ridiculous, or deadly looking. Secondly, because it’s hard to make fun of actual fatalities. Anyway, I wrote the entry up and submitted the article. They kept every word of the article unchanged from my original draft, except for one thing: They cut the umbrellas entry entirely. Ha! Personally, I thought it was the right decision. It kept the whole article exactly how I would’ve wrote it. But for posterity, here’s the cut entry they requested.
What is it?
Christo, an artist famous for the terrific scope and scale of his outdoor exhibitions, planned and partially funded a project to erect enormous umbrellas throughout the countryside free of charge to the general public. They weighed roughly 500 pounds a piece, stood at 20 feet tall, and were moored by giant concrete blocks. Californians were drawn en masse to the exhibit – using the setting as everything from wedding altars to picnic benches – listing the sites primary draws as its brilliant combination of two of California’s greatest strengths: Mediocrity and bullshit. Sorry, California, if you’d like to dispute statements like that, try not being famous for making movies like Meet The Spartans and electing Hercules in New York as your governor.
Pretentious Art Explanation:
From an article in Salon: “No matter how they feel about it, they are all a part of his project. Figuratively and literally, these works are in the public sphere, and these proposals become tabula rasas upon which people can project the best or the worst of themselves. He has so often succeeded in converting people to seeing the beauty in what he proposes and he speaks to the democratizing principle that guides his work… It combines the cheek of Marcel Duchamp’s “readymades” (everyday objects offered as art) with a Warholian awareness of art as packaged commodity. But Christo and his French wife and manager Jeanne-Claude, who now cosigns his work, have said, “All our work is about freedom.”
Christo, despite being French, an artist, and answering only to his first name like Madonna and Shaq, is a surprisingly straightforward guy. He leaves it to others to spout the flowery rhetoric that enshrouds his work and when asked, as he frequently is, just what the hell he thinks he’s doing, he gladly describes in it simple terms. When prompted to explain his new project for example, Christo responded that he plans on “putting up three thousand yellow umbrellas,” and just left it at that. This proves a valuable point about the art world: You don’t even have to try to justify this crap anymore. You can simply tell them in no uncertain terms what kind of ridiculous stunt you want to pull, and then wait patiently for a goateed man in a beret and an unwashed blazer to step from the shadows and tell everybody exactly how “whipping George Lucas with rare and furious snakes,” is some sort of commentary on the futility of modern man.
You may be confounded by this entry’s inclusion in the list, and that is understandable. Let’s play a quick game of Odd One Out and see if you can spot the answer:
Stabbing Dinosaur, Robot Flame Snake, Fire Shower, Wind Monster, Nazi Tornado Gun, Big Umbrella.
Every one of these entries, up until now, has on some level justified how awesome art can be. Even if, and sometimes especially because they are seriously lethal. Christo’s big, stupid umbrellas have only one honorable distinction here: They have actually killed before.
In 1991, an umbrella came unmoored by a wind storm and hurtled across the California highway into Lori Mitchell, pinning her against a boulder and then crushing her to death. Many cite this accident as an unforeseeable tragedy, while still others have actually used an umbrella in their lifetimes and cite this as a case of “no shit, Sherlock.”
Listen, we here at Cracked are internet comedy writers. On a mean average, we weigh about three hundred pounds and spend roughly half of our daily caloric energy masturbating to Christian Bale press releases.
This has two and only two positive effects: It gives us excellent leverage, and it gives us inhuman grip strength. Still, if there is so much as an asthmatic cough on our block, our two-and-a-half-pound Hello Kitty umbrella will invert itself, fly from our steely grips, and then hurtle across the street in a streaking zigzag of destruction before embedding itself firmly in a tree. Building over three thousand of these 500 pound, 20 foot tall umbrellas and then placing them right next to a major highway on a mountain pass is tantamount to a fucking war crime. The only surprising thing here is how low the body count was. They’re only perceived as harmless art installments because he called them merely “Yellow Umbrellas.” We imagine the slightly more accurate title of “Christo’s Gargantuan Californian-Killing Wind Missiles” wouldn’t have quite secured his funding. Although there are some positive consequences of this tragedy: Christo did, for instance, find a way to power murder on alternative energy. California is going green even if it kills them.
EDIT: For anybody that’s new here, you can find links to all the articles I’ve written for both Cracked and Atomfilms in the sidebar pages to the right.