AVALANCHA: The Power of Snow

In December 2014, I, along with Nick Nelson, wandering poet, and Liz Brown, faithful cousin, took 100 snowballs from Madeline Island, WI, and successfully transported them through Mexico and into Havana, Cuba. Starting as a playful experiment, I had open-ended expectations for what was to come from this seemingly silly venture. After months of long distance correspondance with my artist friends down there who were all set to receive the aforementioned cooler of northern goodies, we had all expected this project to last only a few days because of the ephemeral nature of the material at hand. However, the project resulted in a three-month-long creative and adventurous endeavor that we now refer to as, "Avalancha".

Our documentation started from the very beginning in the wintery tundra of Valhala National Forest in Northern Wisconsin on the shores of Lake Superior, to the wild and stressful reality of transporting pristine snowballs in a timely manner during the busiest travel dates of the year, and into the bustling streets of Cuba where they were ushered safely into a freezer in Central Havana. After the group came to a collective decision to not go through with the original idea of having a public snowball fight, we decided to take our time and utilize the transitory material in a more meaningful way. Due to several reservations about creating a public art statement and about creating political art in general, we decided to go the another direction and actively try to make simple statements with the snow, an inherently political presence in Cuba. So, this was our challenge; how to create art outside of our given circumstances, to de-load the heavy themes at hand and to find a neutral ground from which to approach snow, the alien within the given landscape.  

With the help of visual artists, writers and sound artists, we created "Avalancha", a collaborative and on-going experiment that challenged all "sides", U.S. and Cuban, to see beyond loaded context and create a whole new language and method to communicate outside of geographic identities. The snow was stripped of its original context and placed in an unfamiliar land where it was challenged to perform for a new audience, leaving the stage unrecognizable and transformed.

On March 20th, we had an opening at the Madriguera, an underground cultural center in Havana where we presented 24 5-minute films projected on six different screens. The gallery came alive with living documents of the momentary, yet timeless metaphors created by the snow in front of the camera inside the Cuban landscape. Through out the films, the snow becomes a familiar character making its way through the collaborative journey just as we make our way through ours.  

The turn out was outstanding and we're hoping that this is only the beginning of the avalanche...

I made a 50-minute film about the project that I am still working on finalizing in the near future in order to promote it as not only a memoir of a crazy idea, but also present it to a broader audience and involve artists across boundaries of genre and familiarity. "Avalancha" introduces a profound dialog that we hope sparks a different way to perceive diplomatic boundaries through the joy of play. 

Film on YouTube:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zw3J306RlNA