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Melting Monuments Celebrate The Momentary

In 2001, Nele Azevedo started putting ice sculptures in city squares and major plazas and took photos of them as they melted. The Sao Paulo-based artist began with only a couple of sculptures per city, then started placing more and more — hundreds of temporary sculptures in cities around the world, from Havana to Tokyo to Paris. For her most recent "urban intervention," in Stavanger, Norway, the number of ice figures on display reached 1,300.

  • Hundreds of ice figures melt in a plaza in Porto, Portugal as part of the Minimum Monument "urban intervention" in 2006.
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    Hundreds of ice figures melt in a plaza in Porto, Portugal as part of the Minimum Monument "urban intervention" in 2006.
    Néle Azevedo/All photos courtesy of Néle Azevedo
  • Artist Néle Azevedo began the project as an exploration of the idea of an anti-monument. Here, fresh figures sit next to remnants of the melted in Gendarmenmarkt, Berlin in 2009.
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    Artist Néle Azevedo began the project as an exploration of the idea of an anti-monument. Here, fresh figures sit next to remnants of the melted in Gendarmenmarkt, Berlin in 2009.
    Néle Azevedo/All photos courtesy of Néle Azevedo
  • A lone ice figure melts outside of the National Congress in Brasilia, Brazil, in 2003.
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    A lone ice figure melts outside of the National Congress in Brasilia, Brazil, in 2003.
    Néle Azevedo/All photos courtesy of Néle Azevedo
  • In Havana Vieja, Cuba in 2002. The MInimum Monument project began with only one or two sculptures in each location.
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    In Havana Vieja, Cuba in 2002. The MInimum Monument project began with only one or two sculptures in each location.
    Néle Azevedo/All photos courtesy of Néle Azevedo
  • Between 2001 and 2005, Azevedo placed her ice sculptures in nine cities around the world, including Tokyo, Japan in 2003.
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    Between 2001 and 2005, Azevedo placed her ice sculptures in nine cities around the world, including Tokyo, Japan in 2003.
    Néle Azevedo/All photos courtesy of Néle Azevedo
  • The sculptures are made from water poured into molds and then frozen. They are individually retouched before packing.
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    The sculptures are made from water poured into molds and then frozen. They are individually retouched before packing.
    Rodrigo Novaes/All photos courtesy of Néle Azevedo
  • They are transported in refrigerated containers to the intervention sites.
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    They are transported in refrigerated containers to the intervention sites.
    Néle Azevedo/All photos courtesy of Néle Azevedo
  • Bystanders are encouraged to participate by taking a figure and placing it as part of the intervention.
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    Bystanders are encouraged to participate by taking a figure and placing it as part of the intervention.
    Kelly Winck/All photos courtesy of Néle Azevedo
  • One of Azevedo's first large-scale interventions in 2005, with 600 ice sculptures at the Municipal Theater in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
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    One of Azevedo's first large-scale interventions in 2005, with 600 ice sculptures at the Municipal Theater in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
    Andrea Costakazawa/All photos courtesy of Néle Azevedo
  • The most recent intervention at the Article Bienalle in Stavanger, Norway in 2010.
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    The most recent intervention at the Article Bienalle in Stavanger, Norway in 2010.
    Néle Azevedo/All photos courtesy of Néle Azevedo

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Azevedo's project is called Monumento Mínimo (or "Minimum Monument"); it explores the idea of the "anti-monument," subverting the characteristics of official monuments in public places.

"The homage is rendered to the anonymous," she writes in an e-mail. "The ice bodies disappear in the city, in a shared experience."

The ice figures are frozen in molds, and are then individually retouched and stored in freezers that she transports to the site of the intervention, where anybody can take part in placing the sculptures on steps and ledges. The effect is striking: hundreds upon hundreds of delicate figures disappearing into puddles in a celebration of the temporary.

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