Camille Chen Giannini interview Néle Azevedo
Taiwan july of 2009
1. Your little figures are very caracteristic, where did you derive the ideas of making this kind of figure?
I could say the work with sculptures comes from my body memories, of my own body as well as the memories of the bodies observed, it has no direct inspiration of a particular artist, but some affinities with Byzantine art, Etruscans figures that are slim and appears fragility, and Alberto Giacometti’s work.
2. You had already made many little men/figure in iron or resin, but how did you wanna make them in ice?
The sculptures begun with iron, then I made them in clay, plaster, resin, glass and finally, ice. For 3 years I’ve been experimenting with materials that could translate poetically the fragility of the men facing the city it has built. It was a search to oppose the official monument characteristics that resulted in the urban intervention project entitled “The Minimum Monument”. The project is a critical (view) 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. First are the solitary figures, later a multitude of small sculptures of ice placed in public spaces of several cities. The memory is inscribed in the photographic image and shared by everyone. It is not more 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. Recently, the “army of melting men” have been co‐opted by the environmental movement as a poignant symbol of climate change. 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.
3. Which material you like the most to make the little men/figure you always make?
4. You sculpture thousands little ice men but how did you keep them not melting or not being hurt before the exhibition?
The sculptures are made in specially developed moulds, taken to freezers and after frozen, they are carefully individually retouched during the days that precede the intervention. As there are a large number of these sculptures, they are stored in several freezers. Then they are taken to the streets and placed in the place of intervention by the local population.
5. Did you also work in a huge refrigirator in case of the ice melting too soon? (You know Brazil is very hot place...) If not, where did you work on these ice men?
Talking about climate, Brazil has an enormous territorial extension and its climate varies across the country. I live in São Paulo, where the temperature can go from 10C to 28C around the year (not as high as southeast Asia, for example). Anyway, I have never had them melting before time as they are kept in freezers until the minute they are placed.
6. What is the most difficult part to make your art of ice men? Are iron men and resin men easier made then ice men?
7. How long did it take you to make one single piece of ice man?
8. Could you tell us, from the beginning to the end, how did you make one ice man?
(where did you buy the ice, how big was the ice, how did you divide the ice and then sculpture it……etc.) The sculptures are made in the mould and casting process. Each casting has a special mould, as it concerns ice casting I’ve developed specific moulds to do the sculptures, and in 12 to 15 days I can have as many as 1200 sculptures made.
9. In which exhibition did you show the most little ice men in one turn? Potugal? How many did you show?
In Porto city (Portugal) 1000 sculptures were placed in the D. João I plaza, and in Firenze (Italy), there were 1200 sculptures melting in the Piazza della Santissima Annunziata. The population always takes part in helping putting the sculptures in the site of the intervention. The participation of the local people is as important as the place where the action takes part. The passers‐by are invited to help building the Minimum Monument and in this short period of time the dialogue between the artwork, the artist and the audience takes place, establishing an experience of co‐building and melting.
10. Making a little size ice sculpture is much more difficult than making a big size, because the ice is melting, but have you ever thought to make a single piece of a big ice men? Why or why not
11. How did you decide the size of the works of the ice men? Are they all the same position and the same size?
The size of the sculpture is connected to the concept of the Minimum Monument Project. The minimum scale of the pieces (20 cm) accentuates the contrast between the immensity of the city and the smallness of the figure. It intensifies its dramatic aspect. For it is small, it invites to proximity, courtesy, delicacy. It opposes to the bigscaled things our eyes are used to. For this contrast, it causes a poetical suspension of everyday life. The sculptures aren’t the same, there are men and women and although all of them are sitting down, they are not in the exact same position.
12. Aren’t you sad when the with time the ice men melting off your hard work? (How did your feel when you saw them melt away?)
I don’t get sad at all. The Minimum Monument visits the city, becomes part of the landscape for a few minutes, without becoming part of the permanent/official history. We live in a time that emphasizes velocity and it suppresses the experience of time. The ice melts in a chronological time, but it accentuates a time metaphor.
The Minimum Monument, when facing the fruition of traditional static sculpture, can be seen as the “art of presence” (quoting the concept used by DOCTORS, Marcio) – it is necessary to be present in the space and at the time of the happening. The experience with the melting figures is public, however, personal, conditioned to the presence, non‐transferable. The time of the Minimum Monument is the present, the real time experience. The melting process is a shared experience, and a happy one, for me.
13. Did you attend and observe the whole process of ice men melting? What reaction of audience amazed you the most?
In this globalized world the major cities look alike in the everyday life, public transportation systems, commerce, financial systems, credit cards, etc. Sure there are local and regional particularities, but what I mean is that there is no longer the strangeness feeling, but rather recognition of the similarities. The reactions to my work are very similar in all of the cities I’ve been through, but vary in intensity. At Ueno food market, in Tokyo, a lady was so afflicted by them melting that she asked to take them away – what she did, in a food metal tray. A policeman, in front of the Tokyo city hall, asked permission to put the iceman in a tall acrylic cone, which doubled as a pedestal. In Salvador (Brasil), a kid quickly grabbed one sculpture and put it in his mouth to taste it. In Braunschweig (Germany), in Paris, Porto, Firenze or São Paulo, the population’s involvement is intense and everyone – including me ‐ vividly shares the experience of the melting man. It is understood as poetry, as something that exudes the verbal language – the geography, in this case, is non‐existent.
14. You have exhibit the ice men in many places, Tokyo, Braunschweig, Porto, Florence, etc, what will be the next place you show these ice mens?
Where is the place you want the most to do the exhibition of more than 1000 Ice men? I would like to place over 5000 sculptures in a significant urban space – maybe a big city square or plaza that I am still to discover…