Rail: You said “The Gates” are a site-specific work, but what the films show is that the art is everything you did from 1979 to 2005, in terms of getting permission and developing relationships: that is the art too?
Christo: Exactly. Of course people see the end product as the work of art, and that is what many don’t understand. They think we are just masochists to go through all that. After “The Gates” we had a pile of cities asking us to take them to their parks. All our projects are unique images. We will never transfer them to another place and it would bore us to do that, because by then we already know how to do it. Trying to figure out how to do it is the exciting thing of the project.
Rail: Because you have approached every step of engaging both institutions and private citizens to participate, it seems like your work prefigures a lot of what later artists called “social practice.”
Christo: Our projects are not done for the sake of that—that would be theater. I come from a communist country, Marxist educated, and I cannot stand propaganda art. Our project is one of enjoying beauty. We get involved into the ecological, political situations we do because they are already there, and have to be worked with to make the project. In the world, everything is owned by somebody. If it is ranchers, then we talked to ranchers. The Reichstag is owned by 80 million Germans, and there is no way we can talk to them all. But they elected 660 deputies of the German parliament to represent them, so we had to convince the majority of them to support the project. The principle person was the prime minister who was a very powerful conservative leader, and he was so much against the project that he moved the discussion of the wrapping of the Reichstag from a simple vote to a full debate and roll-call vote for the German Parliament that took two hours. The vote was scheduled to be in 1994 and Jeanne-Claude and I had hundreds of meetings with people. The principle speech against it was so violently negative that many conservatives changed their mind and ended up voting for the wrapping of the Reichstag, and it happened. The man who made that speech is a very important man in the European Union, the current finance minister of Germany, Wolfgang Schäuble. Recently a newspaper asked him if he had any regrets and he said “yes”—that he was against our wrapping of the Reichstag.