Wired Magazine UK
Interview With Néle Azevedo
São Paulo, 21.01. 2010
1. Can I take your age and where you are based?
I live and work in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
2. How would you describe what you do?
I do interventions in public spaces in different cities and countries. Hundreds of ice sculptures are taken to central places of cities and with help from the passers-‐by they are left to melt. The sculptures are tiny men and women, 20 cm tall, placed on stairways. The urban intervention is called “Minimum Monument”, because its meaning is tied up to the concept of the monument – it is an anti-‐monument. Recently the images started to appear on the World Wide Web and were named “Melting Men” by internet users. It also grabbed the attention of WWF Germany, who invited me to do an intervention in Berlin to raise the awareness for the climate change effects. I believe as the reading of an art piece is open, it is valid to see my work as a contemporary monument reminding us of the changes that can threatens our life in the planet.
3. Why do you do this? What's the concept?
There is a search for reconciliation between the public and private spheres, the subject and the city. In this search I’ve found in the pubic monument the synthesis of my uneasiness: the historical celebration far from the ordinary man. I then subverted, one by one, the characteristics of official monuments. The scale is minimal – hence the name, “Minimum Monument”, there is no pedestal either hierarchy, the homage is rendered to the anonymous. The ice bodies disappear in the city, in a shared experience. The happening remains on the viewers’ memories and their pictures. After all, what motivates more is the deep love for the public spaces of cities, and the possibility of different relations that can be established there.
4. When did you start doing this?
My investigation started in 2001, during my masters in visual arts at the Arts Institute of São Paulo State University -‐ UNESP/2001-‐2003
5. How do you make the men?
All 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.
6. What do they represent?
They are tiny figures of men and women that melt away in 30 minutes or less. There is no closed interpretation of what they represent, each city and each place the interpretation is open to the ones that experience the happening, help to build the “monument” or take time to see it melting. As it dialogues with the traditional static sculpture, the “Minimum Monument” can be seen as the “presential art” – you need to be present at the time and place of the intervention. The experience of placing the sculptures and the sight of they melting is public, but at the same time, personal, presential, non-‐transferable.
7. How do people respond to them?
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 anxious by the sight of 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 acted as a pedestal. In Salvador (Brazil), a kid quickly grabbed one sculpture and put it in his mouth to taste it. In Firenze, when we arrived with two vertical freezers full of sculptures at the Piazza della Santissima Annunziata, there were more than 5000 people protesting against privatization of public schools in Italy. The protesters quickly helped me place the 1200 sculptures on the stairs, and incorporated the intervention saying: “this is what is happening to public education in Italy, it is melting!” In Berlin, at Gendarmenmarket, the participation was also huge. Some kids took a statue, placed it on the stairs and set by its side, like they were taken care of the melting man. Whether in Berlin, Paris, Porto, Firenze or São Paulo, the passers-‐by have an intense interaction and share the experience of the melting process. The sculpture becomes a collective body, poetry, it goes beyond the verbal language – the geography is nonexistent.
8. How many men have you made?
9. Where have you put them so far? Examples of cities? Monuments?
I’ve started my project doing just a couple of ice sculptures, roaming around cities and placing them in significant public places, watching them melt and registering the process with pictures. In this first phase of my project, I went to nine cities -‐ Campinas, São Paulo, Brasília, Curitiba e Salvador (Brazil), Havana (Cuba), México City (Mexico), Tokyo and Kyoto (Japan). In 2005 I started placing a small multitude of sculptures at central places of the cities, like the foundation site or main squares. Initially I put 290 sculptures in Praça da Sé, the main central plaza of São Paulo. Then I placed 500 at L’Opera (Paris, France/2005), 500 in Burgplatz (Braunschweig, Germany/2006), 600 at Municipal Theatre stairs in São Paulo (Brazil/2006). In 2007 I placed 1000 men at Praça D. João I (Porto, Portugal) and in 2008 there were 1200 melting at Piazza della Santissima Annunziata (Firenze, Italy). My last intervention was the Berlin one, in 2009, when I placed 1000 of them at Gendarmenmarket. As I place more and more sculptures, the experience of the melting process is amplified; it creates sort of a poetical interruption in everyday life, like a rite. Particularly the city foundations rites, as narrated by the historian Fustel de Coulanges.