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Nele Azevedo Interview

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Melting Men is a series of art installations from the Minimum Monument project created by Brazilian artist Nele Azevedo. Since 2005, Azevedo has been setting up her Melting Men in various countries around the world. Although originally intended as a critic of the role of monuments in cities, environmentalists around the world are adopting her work as climate change art. We caught up with Nele Azevedo to ask her for a bit more information about her popular art installations.

Why did you make the installation?

The installation is part of an urban intervention project, called Minimum Monument. The project is a critical reading of the monument in the contemporary cities. In a few-minute action, the official canons of the monument are inverted: in the place of the hero, the anonym; in the place of the solidity of the stone, the ephemeral process of the ice; in the place of the monument scale, the minimum scale of the perishable bodies.

The project started with solitary figures, later a multitude of small sculptures of ice were placed in public spaces of several cities. The memory is inscribed in the photographic image and shared by everyone. It is not reserved to great heroes nor to great monuments. It loses its static condition to gain fluidity in the urban displacement and in the change of state of the water. It concentrates on small sculptures of small men, the common men.

Was the latest installation timed to coincide with the Climate Change Talks?

All the interventions took place in several cities of several countries, like São Paulo, Campinas, Ribeirão Preto, Brasilia, Salvador e Curitiba, in Brazil, Paris (France), Havana (Cuba), Braunschweig (Germany), Porto (Portugal) and Firenze (Italy).

How many figures were there in the installation?

The amount of sculptures depends on the place. The place where the intervention happens has always an historical meaning to the town. For instance, the Dom Joao I Plaza, in Porto - Portugal, or the medieval plaza with the bronze lion, in Braunschweig.

In Sao Paulo there were 300 sculptures in April 2005. Later that year, 400 ice figures melted on the L'Opera Stairs and Mairie du Novienne, in Paris. In June 2006 more than 500 melting man were placed in Braunschweig Plaza and in September there were 1000 sculptures melting in the city of Porto. This year the intervention took place in Firenze, Italy were 1200 ice sculptures were placed in the stairs of Instituti delle Inocenti at the Piazza della Santíssima Annunziata, built by the renaissance architect Brunelleschi. As it always happens, the people who were there were invited to help build the monument, placing the ice figures.

When there are more sculptures, the bigger the impact, and it reaches a monumental scale.

How long do the installations last?

The actions lasts 30 to 40 minutes. It depends on the weather at the site of the intervention.

Are you a climate change activist?

No. I'm an artist, master of visual arts from the University of Sao Paulo (UNESP). This work was conceived as a critical view of the official historical monuments. As the reading and interpretation of an art piece is open, I'm glad it can also speak of urgent matters that threaten our existence on this planet.

Any future environmental installations planned?

There is a plan to take the Minimum Monument to Germany, but still nothing confirmed.