On this day one hundred years ago Great Britain declared war on Germany and in doing so changed the course of the country's history for ever. To mark the occasion Birmingham organised quite an unusual event that turned out to be unexpectedly poignant. It's not very often you can actively take part in a genuine art installation but the opportunity arose on Saturday for me to do this.
The Brazilian artist Néle Azevedo produced 5,000 figures made out of ice to create a piece called 'Minimum Monument.' These were then installed on the steps of Chamberlain Square in the centre of Birmingham.
|Individual figure - Minimum Monument|
The clever point is that the ice figures were handed out to individuals to place them where ever they pleased. And, as odd as it may seem, this personal contact with a particular figure resulted in hundreds of people standing, quietly watching their figure slowly melt. Out of interest I placed my figure on its own. Other people quickly placed their own either side and soon the steps were covered.
|Minimum Monument, Birmingham|
With an emotional effect that often only art (be it poetry, painting or sculpture) can produce, a personal attachment had been created with a block of ice; thoughts soon wondered to loved ones lost not just in war but also life in general. How many times do we read names on a memorial for a few seconds, that we have no personal connection with, then quickly forget? I alone spent over 30 minutes simply observing the ice figure I placed down and the square was still crowded a hour after the installation started. There was something strangely moving about watching a small ice sculpture slowly melt in the sunshine and within a short time disappear without a trace. It seems to reflect the fragility of life that is so cruelly exposed during times of war, just as it is today as it was one hundred years ago.
Congratulations to Birmingham & Azevedo for creating a moving and memorable event that marks such a tragic episode in mankind's history.