Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Melting Men

Melting Men is a series of art installations from the Minimum Monument project created by Brazilian artist Nele Azevedo. Since 2005, Azevedo has been setting up her Melting Men in various countries around the world. Although originally intended as a critic of the role of monuments in cities, environmentalists around the world are adopting her work as climate change art.

This is what Nele said about her work in an interview:

The installation is part of an urban intervention project, called Minimum Monument. The project is a critical reading of the monument in the contemporary cities. In a few-minute action, the official canons of the monument are inverted: in the place of the hero, the anonym; in the place of the solidity of the stone, the ephemeral process of the ice; in the place of the monument scale, the minimum scale of the perishable bodies.

The project started with solitary figures, later a multitude of small sculptures of ice were placed in public spaces of several cities. The memory is inscribed in the photographic image and shared by everyone. It is not reserved to great heroes nor to great monuments. It loses its static condition to gain fluidity in the urban displacement and in the change of state of the water. It concentrates on small sculptures of small men, the common men.

All the interventions took place in several cities of several countries, like Sa~o Paulo, Campinas, Ribeira~o Preto, Brasilia, Salvador e Curitiba, in Brazil, Paris (France), Havana (Cuba), Braunschweig (Germany), Porto (Portugal) and Firenze (Italy).

The amount of sculptures depends on the place. The place where the intervention happens has always an historical meaning to the town. For instance, the Dom Joao I Plaza, in Porto - Portugal, or the medieval plaza with the bronze lion, in Braunschweig.

In Sao Paulo there were 300 sculptures in April 2005. Later that year, 400 ice figures melted on the L'Opera Stairs and Mairie du Novienne, in Paris. In June 2006 more than 500 melting man were placed in Braunschweig Plaza and in September there were 1000 sculptures melting in the city of Porto. This year the intervention took place in Firenze, Italy were 1200 ice sculptures were placed in the stairs of Instituti delle Inocenti at the Piazza della Santíssima Annunziata, built by the renaissance architect Brunelleschi. As it always happens, the people who were there were invited to help build the monument, placing the ice figures.

When there are more sculptures, the bigger the impact, and it reaches a monumental scale.

The actions lasts 30 to 40 minutes. It depends on the weather at the site of the intervention. Then the little men start melting in the sun, leaving nothing but a little water, and then nothing … except for a memorable, cool shared memory for those attending the event.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Eye Of Africa - The Richat Structure

The Richat Structure is one of those geological features that are more clearly observed from space than from down on the ground. It was first observed from space by Gemini 4 astronauts McDivitt and White in June 1965.
Located in the center of Mauritania, the western end of the Sahara desert this prominent circular feature has attracted attention since the earliest space missions because it forms a conspicuous bull's-eye in the otherwise rather featureless expanse of the desert. Described by some as looking like an outsized ammonite in the desert, this 'eye of Africa' , which has a diameter of almost 50 kilometers (30 miles) has become a landmark astronauts since the earliest manned missions.

Credits: ESA

Most of the image looks yellowish, indicating sand desert. The dark brown part is bare sedimentary rocks, and within that you can see the Richat Structure, a gigantic ring structure of some 40 km in diameter.

The onion-like formation is formed by concentric bands of resistant paleozoic quartzite rocks form ridges, and between with valleys of less-resistant rock between them.

The part of the sedimentary rock corresponding to the white of the eye is a plateau standing some 200 m above the sand desert. The Richat Structure corresponding to the iris of the eye lies in a depression, and the peak of the outer rim is 485 m above sea level. The Richat Structure consists of Early Paleozoic rocks, some 600 million years old. Around the center, rocks resistant to weathering and erosion (purple and blue-green part) make 100 m high ridges, and nonresistant rocks (yellow and brown part) form valleys. These features alternate and are concentric.

Credit: Landsat 7, USGS, NASA

The Richat Structure was previously thought to have been formed by metorite impact or volcanic activity, but field surveys have demonstrated that neither are correct. The current thinking is that these features were formed by an uplift and subsequent erosion from wind and water.
However, why the structure is circular remains a mystery.