Minimum Monument is an ephemeral installation exhibited in diverse public places around the world. Since 2005, these ice figures made by Brazilian artist Néle Azevedo have conquered cities like Havana, Berlin, Florence, Paris, Tokyo, Singapore, Mexico City, among many others.
The practice of creating monuments to honor important people after death was popularized in Ancient Rome. Emperors were celebrated with huge statues placed in the main squares. It’s worth noting that the size of the sculpture also represented the importance given to the depicted person.
This practice was a way to immortalize a person in marble or stone and preserve their deeds and importance in the memories of the citizens. With the passing of time, this tradition has grown and evolved. Nowadays, the monuments of presidents, governments, and many public figures are part of the natural landscape of modern cities.
In contrast with ancient monuments that sought immortality, Azevedo’s pieces remind us of our limited condition. The main reason why she uses ice to is because her works are meant to be perishable. The lack of a face creates a huge contrast with common sculptures, whose main purpose is to extoll a particular person.
Her art, on the contrary, suggests that these are individuals, without any distinction in age, sex, or social class. She alludes to a utopian democracy where we’re all the same. The title “monument” forces the spectator to take a solemn stand, like when we’re admiring a stone on the ground.
The selection of cities where she presented her urban intervention wasn’t random at all. The artist made a thorough research of the place, so her work could easily contrast with the cities’ landmarks. Nowadays, we’re so used to huge objects, the verticality of skyscrapers, bridges, and edifications, that we forget to look down, see the details in little things. The small size of Minimum Monument is a critique to verticality, since looking down or getting closer to something creates a more intimate encounter between art and the spectator.
Many think that the main discourse behind this work is climate change. It’s often interpreted as a warning of the consequences of global warming. Many understood the installation as a critique to humankind and how by destroying the planet, we’ve endangered ourselves. But that was not the idea behind Minimum Monument.
For instance, these ice soldiers melted in less than 3o minutes one sunny day in Berlin. The only thing they left was a warm puddle on the pavement. It has been interpreted as a metaphor of the fast sea level rise that’s threatening to end with many coasts.
This temporary exhibition is a sort of voodoo effect, since it becomes painful to watch the melted sculptures on the ground. Although the piece invites the spectator to reflect upon many topics, it’s also a mirror of contemporary society’s concerns.
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Translated by María Isabel Carrasco Cara Chards