Institute History

  • 1987 Sundance Film Festival


Christo is world-renowned artist who specializes in doing the impossible: stringing a quarter-mile orange curtain across a Colorado valley, constructing a 24-mile fence of white nylon in California and, in this film, surrounding Miami’s eleven Biscayne Bay islands with bright pink material. The Rumanian-born artist and his wife and cohort, Jeanne-Claude Christo, inevitably run into hostile local bureaucrats who attempt to thwart their projects at every turn. The ensuing confrontation is often funny and engaging. And after endless committee hearings, behind-the-scenes string-pulling and creative politics on everyone’s part, Christo gets the go-ahead.

Islands, the third film by the Maysles and Charlotte Zwerin on a Christo project, falls easily within the aforementioned scheme of things. What keeps it from becoming just another episode in the Christo saga are those moments in which Christo the artist—rather than the showman—emerges. He speaks of the time-related; nature of his work, that its ephemeral quality gives it the urgency a museum exhibit cannot command. He talks about art as “experience” rather than “product,” and treats us to a mini-history of art as an extension of capitalist ideology, And the “surrounded islands” themselves, Christo’s homage to Monet’s “Water Lilies,” as photographed by the Maysles, are every bit as glorious a visual gesture as the artist h as promised.

— Karen Cooper

Screening Details

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