The Arc de Triomphe is being packaged, as a posthumous work of the artist couple Christo and Jeanne-Claude. What is the real modernity of this work but also, its ecological impact?
Christo and Jeanne-Claude are a couple of artists who have crossed the 20th century by working with space and materials to package monuments. Their work, both monumental and ephemeral, aimed to reveal while hiding. Posthumously, Christo having died in 2020, one of their projects is underway in Paris: the packaging of the Arc de Triomphe, which will be inaugurated on September 18, 2021. 25,000 square meters of polypropylene fabric were shipped from Greven, Germany, to Paris. Modern artists in the 20th century, the couple’s latest installation in progress is the subject of debate.
“From an environmental perspective, can we afford to waste 25,000 m2 of fabric wrapping a monument? The fashion industry is responsible for 10% of global carbon emissions, and the production process of tissue is the second largest consumer of water in a world where water stress affects 2.7 billion people “, writes, in a column published in Le Monde, the architect Carlo Ratti, one of Christo’s friends. For their part, the project leaders highlight the properties of the fabric, which is recyclable. Sufficient at a time of major disasters linked to climate change?
“Reveal by hiding”, greenwashing with Christo sauce?
However, being recyclable does not necessarily mean being well recycled. Here the very media character of the project suggests that the materials will be well upgraded. But highlighting the recyclable nature of a material in no way questions waste or consumerism. In a blog post from June 2020, Christophe Catsaros, freelance art and architecture critic, summed up the problem inherent in the duo’s work: “Master packager Christo is nothing more than a symptom of this disposable world where, as long as you recycle, everything is fine.” This is all the more shocking when we know that highlighting the recyclable nature of an object is today a marketing technique for manufacturers so as not to rethink their production logic.
In truth, so-called recyclable packaging in France is not recycled: lack of channels, infrastructure … A large part of the fabrics are exported to South East Asia, where they end up in landfills. open. To find out more, you can read the book by Flore Berlingen, director of Zero Waste France: Recycling, the big smoke. The work of Christo has at least the merit of underlining the contradictions of our time which wants to be in transition while keeping the glance fixed on values of the last century.