São Paulo - Brazil, 19.10.2020
1- What is the original motivation for the project of Minimum Monument?
My original motivation for the Project of Minimum Monument began as the object of my master dissertation research in 2003. ‘An aesthetic proposal of the minimum inserted as a monument in the city’. The axis of poetic discussion and reflection is the intersection between local history and public monuments. So I did a long research of materials for two years during my master degree and the ice matter has to do with the concept of this work.
Minimum Monument intervention work in urban space uses the monument concept as the reference from which it discusses the official celebration and inserts an ephemeral body in the city space. I’ve found in the public monument the synthesis of my uneasiness: the historical celebration far from the ordinary man. I searched reconciliation between the public and private spheres, the subjective self and the city. I proposed an anti- monument.
So I subverted, one by one, the characteristics of the official monument. At the place of the grand scale widely used as ostentation of power, I proposed a minimal scale. At the place of the hero's face a tribute to the anonymous observer, to the passerby, who identifies himself with the process, in a kind of celebration of life, of the recognition of the tragic, of the heroic in each human trajectory. At the place of durable materials, I proposed the ice sculptures that last about thirty minutes - they don't crystallize memory, neither separate death from life. They have fluidity and movement and rescue the original function of monuments: to remind us we die.
The relationship between Minimum Monument and sustainability/environment grew as Minimum Monument kept intervening in the cities. Since 2009, in the intervention held in Berlin with WWF’s support, Minimum Monument has been presented as being directly linked to global warming. Its affinity with the theme is clear and I think it can also be read as a "living monument" of contemporary issues, appealing far beyond the contemporary art circuit. “a liquid monument for liquid times”
2- What is your thinkings of global warming in this project? Why do you want to address the question of climate change in this way?
I believe the ecological issue is an ethical one - we are together: earth, water, fire, air, animals, plants and humans. We should learn from each other, and live without hierarchizing what is alive. The idea that we are somehow superior to our surroundings is rooted in our civilization. The threat generated by climate change finally puts human beings in the place where we belong. Our destiny is entangled with the planet's fate. We’re not the kings of nature, but a constituent element of it. We are nature!
For example, indigenous peoples living in Brazil do not have in their languages a word to designate Nature, because there is no such separation between man and nature.
Therefore to live without hierarchies implies in my work with the Minimum Monument to meet two questions:
The threats generated by climate change are urgent. This situation finally puts the human being in his place as I said above: We are nature! Furthermore, this situation reveals the interdependence among all sorts of human beings, and put us all under the same condition and the same urgency. It demands a change in development paradigms adopted by governments of all political parties and nations to rethink another model of development.
It also proposes another way to celebrate the public memory on historical dates. For example, in Belfast, Northern Ireland (2012), Minimum Monument was called upon to honor the victims of the Titanic; while in Birmingham, England (2014), Minimum Monument paid tribute to the centennial of the First World War, when five-thousand ice sculptures occupied the entire Chamberlain Square, to remember the anonymous victims of the war, who sacrificed their lives.
3. Since 2005, what is the journey of this project? How many countries and cities it has gone through?
The Minimum Monument has already been held in 24 cities around the world as can be seen here at this address:
4. Does the project serve the same mission in different locations? Or you hope them to pass on various messages in diverse places?
The Minimum Monument is a piece that focuses more on process than the art object itself. My experience with this work is not repetitive. The challenge of space and its context is always new, never repeated . The work has a fluidity that incorporates new meanings when confronting new intervening spaces. The daily production of the sculptures also brings new meanings. It has an effect on the lives of people who works in the process, those who take part in the action and this has an impact on my life, my worldview, and my relationship with time. It’s approaches the rite.
5. What is the plan for the near future of Minimum Monuments?
I live in São Paulo - Brazil, here we still live a pandemic with Covid 19 and I can't leave the country until the end of December / 2020.
All presentations of my art work of urban intervention called Minimum Monument in this year's were canceled because of Covid 19.
There would be an intervention in Rome that would be on April 17th in the Borgia steps, on the way to the Strike for the Future parade.
There would also be in Kosice 25 to 27 September and in Bratislava 2 to 4 October 2020, Slovakia.
I confess to you that I still don't know what the next step will be to carry out this work, but, I believe that we still have the time that will come in 2021 ...
6. The ice sculpture doesn’t last forever, does this point make you feel pity or disappointed? Or this is one of your intentions?
Yes, this is one of my intentions, it is made to disappear. The ice matter entered the work as a concept.
I think that procedures, techniques and materials change according to the time in which we live. For example, the use of solid and enduring material in the Renaissance is linked to their view of the world at that time - the cities and art were built from the perspective of eternity. Our contemporary experience is different, it is partial and transitory, it is no longer eternal, and so materials and actions combine with our worldview.
São Paulo, Oct. 19, 2020. Néle Azevedo