The Iceman Melteth

The Wooster Collective talks to Néle about the temporary street art of his miniature ice...


The Wooster Collective talks to Néle about the temporary street art of his miniature ice sculptures.

Néle makes magic in cities. His ice sculptures are arresting, beautiful, and inspiring. Placed in city centers near iconic buildings, they only last hours before they melt away. The process of melting creates a living sculpture that transforms over time. Surely, many passersby don't even notice the sculpture, but those who do must be shocked. Néle has also worked with permission in city's doing larger installations with powerful effects.

WOOSTER: Why did you choose the specific placement?

NELE: I chose to work with the body and the city. I've started to roam around several major cities, studying their history and placing little ice sculptures in their meaningful historical places. Monuments are the synthesis of my restlessness: a historical celebration far away from ordinary men. I then subvert the official monument's characteristics by breaking the monumental scale with a little ice sculpture, honoring the anonymous and melting the body in the city.

W: What do you think your piece adds to or subtracts from to the community?

N: I believe it is a poetical exchange. For a moment people stop, intrigued, and then touched somehow by the sight of these tiny figures melting away.

W: What type of reaction did you get from the community?

N: I can say my work has been sensitively welcomed in the cities that it's been placed in. The reactions are similar, but the intensity varies. In Tokyo, an old lady at Ueno's food market was very anguished to see the sculptures melting and asked me to take them away, she then placed them on a tray and took them. A police officer, in front of Tokyo City Hall asked for permission and put them on an acrylic cone, slightly elevated, creating sort of a pedestal.

In Salvador, Brasil, a kid grabbed one quickly and licked it. Whether in Berlin, Paris, Porto, Firenze, or São Paulo, the passersby have an intense interaction and experience the melting process. The statue becomes a collective body-poetry, it goes beyond the verbal language.

Until April, 2004, I used to place solitary figures, anonymously, without asking permission. These were made in Tóquio, Kyoto, Havana, Mexico City, Brasília, Salvador, Curitiba, and São Paulo e Campinas. During this time, I used to roam around the cities to find places where the reduced size of my statues could establish a dialogue with the monument concept. Then I placed one or two and waited for it to melt away from a distance.

Now I am mainly working with permission as the solitary and anonymous actions gave place to a multitude of ice men, reaching up to 1,200 sculptures. Instead of roaming around the town, I started going for its center-political, social, historical. At this point I could no longer do my work without asking for permission because I started performing at big centers, like Praça da Sé in São Paulo, L'Òpera in Paris, Gendarmenmarkt in Berlin, Praça Dom João I in Porto, Piazza Della Santissima Annunziata in Florence. All these places are really meaningful and main points of these cities and I could not place this amount of sculptures without any sort of authorization.

W: Why did you choose the subject matter you did?

N: I believe our choices are very connected to our configurations. The body and the city chose me to develop my own questions. How do my body and I fit in the world?

W: What is inspiring to you now?

N:The cities and its inconsistencies always amaze and inspire me.

To see more of Néle's work, visit his website. To see more great street art, visit the Wooster Collective.

Photo captions, from top. All photos by Néle Azevedo:

1. Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan. July, 2003.
2. Downtown São Paulo, Brazil. April, 2002.
3. Havana, Cuba. October, 2002.
4. Football Stadium Guarani Campinas, Brazil.November, 2001.
5. Football Stadium Ponte Preta Campinas, Brazil. November, 2001.


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