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Low-temp, high-concept art

From early December, Brisbane’s Gallery of Modern Art will be home to a snowman.

Created by leading Swiss contemporary artists and collaborators Peter Fischli and David Weiss, Snowman is part of the Water exhibition.

The artwork is in fact an encased water system with controlled cycles of condensation, precipitation and freezing. The snowman itself is constructed from three copper spheres contained behind the transparent glazing of a large freezer. As the frost gradually accumulates, the snowman grows until he needs to be defrosted.

His face has to be redrawn each time so that it doesn’t disappear under layers of ice. This also means that his expression changes – he might be frowning one day, smiling the next.

Fischli and Weiss first came up with the concept in 1987 and designed it to stand outside a thermal power station in Saarbrücken, Germany, the power of which would keep the snowman perpetually frozen.

After Weiss died in 2012, Fischli was commissioned by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art to remake the work. Since then it has also appeared in New York. This is the first time it has appeared in the Southern Hemisphere.

“Snowman is comically out of place in subtropical Brisbane,” says the exhibition program. “Many Australians will have never seen a snowman in real life. Yet his presence is no less plausible than the gallery’s year-round air conditioning. If we can buy flowers and fruit out of season and remain at a comfortable 23°C all year round, why not have a snowman in summer?”

For more details of the Water exhibition, click here.

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