The Snow Show, Torino - Exhibition Description

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The Snow Show 2006, installation view.

On every continent, we witness how art and architecture have evolved from similar historical roots; indeed, the fine arts and architecture both find their common origin in those prehistoric wall paintings and earth carvings that are among the earliest examples of human culture. However, despite their common bonds, a centuries old schism divides the practices of art and architecture that is only now, in recent history, being bridged. The previous Snow Show exhibitions, held in 2003 and 2004, provided uniquely compelling illustrations of the similarities and differences between the worlds of art and architecture. Few, if any, artist-architect collaborations had even been realized on such a grand scale; the two exhibitions included a total of nineteen structures designed and built from the ephemeral materials of ice and snow. The Snow Show created an interdisciplinary collaboration between individuals: one artist and one architect, working as a team to utilize snow and ice as the medium of design and construction. By eliminating familiar, stable materials, such as paint, bronze, wood, steel, and bricks, the hope was that preexisting biases, hierarchies, and principles of design would be neutralized. The use of snow and ice as a viable building material had not previously been explored to any great degree, and The Snow Show allowed participant teams to pioneer new approaches to the medium.

The collaborative premise for The Snow Show 2006 expands on the issues addressed by its predecessors, while incorporating a heightened attention to accessibility. Taking place in conjunction with the 20th Winter Olympic Games will provide The Snow Show 2006 with the opportunity to bring examples of cutting-edge contemporary art and architecture to an international, mainstream audience of millions. In contrast to the previous site, which was flat, narrow, and flanked by a frozen river, the distinctive physical features of the new location will greatly enhance the visceral experience of the viewers. The new location, at Sestriere in the Italian alps, has a unique topography that will allow the seven new projects to take advantage of varied settings, providing different levels for vantage and entrance points for each of the projects.

Furthermore, the warmer climate of the new site will shift the emphasis from monumental pavilions to projects that are more in keeping with the environmental landscape. As a result of this warmer climate, the primary building material will not be snow or ice, but water, as each design will have to take into account the effects of the melting process. This conceptual shift seems minor, yet it is crucial. This exhibition will necessarily place a new emphasis on the temporal process of aging, melting, and disintegration, aspects that will hopefully be embraced and highlighted by the participants. Monumental works will no longer be feasible; because the warmer latitude will result in the rapid melting of the snow and ice, the designs will need to make allowance for the ephemeral qualities of the material and take into account its unpredictable integration into the landscape and surrounding environment. With a de-emphasis of vertical space in favor of an enlarged horizontal plane, the works become less monolithic, yet they may, in fact, be larger than in past exhibitions. This expansion of scale will encourage a greater sense of mystery and discovery, making possible the use of secluded, private settings and allowing for very meditative and intimate experiences with the work.

Finally, as a result of partnering with the Winter Olympic Games, the participants will consider the implications of sport and incorporate those considerations into their designs. No longer will the viewer simply be cast in the role of voyeur, but instead, each project will be able to fully engage the viewer in an interactive, participatory experience. With The Snow Show 2006, I hope, not simply to recreate a wonderful exhibition, but to develop a new exhibition that will vary from and expand upon its predecessors and the designated theme.

Lance M. Fung, Curator
Torino, November 2004