18.11.11

Ashes and Snow


Ashes and Snow by canadian artist Gregory Colbert is an installation of photographic artworks, films and a novel in letters that travels from city to city in the Nomadic Museum, a temporary structure built exclusively to house the exhibition.
The work explores the shared poetic sensibilities of human beings and animals.
To date, Ashes and Snow has attracted more than 10 million visitors, making it the most attended exhibition by a living artist in history.
“In exploring the shared language and poetic sensibilities of all animals, I am working towards rediscovering the common ground that once existed when people lived in harmony with animals. The images depict a world that is without beginning or end, here or there, past or present.”
- Gregory Colbert
Each exhibition consists of more than fifty large-scale mixed media photographic artworks and three film installations.
The photographic artworks measure approximately 3.5 by 2.5 meters (11.5 x 8.25 feet). Each one is created using an encaustic process on handmade Japanese paper.
The films include one 60-minute full-length 35mm film and two short films, they are poetic narratives rather than documentaries.
None of the photographic or film images have been digitally collaged or superimposed.
The title Ashes and Snow refers to the literary component of the exhibition—a fictional account of a man who, over the course of a yearlong journey, composes 365 letters to his wife. Fragments of the letters comprise the narration in the films.

'Feather to fire,
fire to blood,
blood to bone,
bone to marrow,
marrow to ashes,
ashes to snow...'

- excerpt from Ashes and Snow: A Novel in Letters by Gregory Colbert


'The whales do not sing because they have an answer.
They sing because they have a song.

What matters is not
what is written on the page,
what matters is
what is written in the heart.'

- excerpt from Ashes and Snow: A Novel in Letters by Gregory Colbert



"I'm struggling in relearning what I knew as a child that enabled me to see animals with clear eyes.
Without that clarity even my ears seem to miss much of the sublime music of nature...
What a lonely species we have become.

The longer I watch the savannah elephants,
the more I listen,
the more I open.
They remind me of who I am...
May the guardian elephants hear my wish to collaborate with all the musicians of nature's orchestra.
I want to join the dance that has no steps.
I want to become the Dance."

- excerpt from Ashes and Snow: A Novel in Letters by Gregory Colbert


The Nomadic Museum

Colbert originally conceived the idea for a sustainable traveling museum in 1999. He envisioned a structure that could easily be assembled or recycled in each location and that would serve as the architectural component of the installation on its global journey.


The Arsenale inspired the architectural concepts of the Nomadic Museum, which debuted in New York in 2005. The first Nomadic Museum utilized shipping containers stacked in a checkerboard pattern to create the exterior and interior walls. The architecture of the Nomadic Museum continued to evolve as the exhibition traveled to Los Angeles in 2006 and Tokyo in 2007.


“The works themselves can't be separate from the architecture or the music or the films. When you walk into the building, you're literally inside the work of art itself.”

- Gregory Colbert


The most recent version of the Nomadic Museum was located on the Zócalo in Mexico City.
Designed by Colombian architect Simón Vélez in collaboration with Gregory Colbert, it demonstrated sustainable practices and an innovative architectural approach through the use of guadua bamboo as the primary structural component. The first of its kind, the 5,130 square meters (55,218 square feet) Zócalo Nomadic Museum was the largest bamboo building ever built.


Like all elements of Ashes and Snow, the Nomadic Museum will be redesigned and adapted to each new location and is charted to travel the globe with no final destination.


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