As the players in the new 21st century race for the Moon line up – the USA rejoining China, India and Russia and jostling with private corporations interested in exploiting the Moon’s resources – a group of artists are declaring a Republic of the Moon: a ‘micronation’ for alternative visions of lunar life.
Republic of the Moon challenges utilitarian plans of lunar mines and military bases with artists’ imaginings and interventions. Combining beguiling fantasies, personal encounters, and playful appropriations of space habitats and scientific technologies, Republic of the Moon reclaims the Moon for artists, idealists, and dreamers.
The last race to the Moon was driven by the political impulses of the Cold War, but shaped by extraordinary visions of space created by writers, film-makers, and artists, from Jules Verne, Lucien Rudaux, and Vasily Levshin, to HG Wells, Stanislav Lem and Stanley Kubrick. Can artists’ quixotic visions reconcile our romantic notions of the Moon with its colonised future, and help us to reimagine our relationship with our natural satellite in the new space age?
Curated by Arts Catalyst and FACT, Republic of the Moon includes major new commissions by Agnes Meyer-Brandis and WE COLONISED THE MOON, and works by Leonid Tishkov, Andy Gracie, Liliane Lijn and Sharon Houkema.
The Moon Goose Analogue: Lunar Migration Bird Facility, Agnes Meyer-Brandis’ poetic-scientific investigations weave fact, imagination, storytelling and myth, past, present and future. In this major new work the artist develops an ongoing narrative based on the book ‘The Man in the Moone’, written by the English bishop Francis Godwin in 1603, in which the protagonist flies to the Moon in a chariot towed by ‘moon geese’. Meyer-Brandis has actualised this concept by raising eleven moon geese from birth in Italy, giving them astronauts’ names*, imprinting them on herself as goose-mother, training them to fly and taking them on expeditions. The artist will build a remote Moon analogue habitat for the geese, which will be operated from a control room within the gallery. (* Neil, Svetlana, Gonzales, Valentina, Friede, Juri, Buzz, Kaguya-Anousheh, Irena, Rakesh, Konstantin-Hermann).
Luring us onto the surface of the Moon, WE COLONISED THE MOON (Sue Corke and Hagen Betzwieser) will create an immersive audience experience, Enter At Own Risk. For this new commission, the artists will create an intimate immersive installation in the form of a laboratory-like room in which a lone astronaut tenderly gardens a group of rocks, spraying them periodically with the smell of the Moon - a scent the artists have had synthesised based on reports from the Apollo crew. The artists question what is real and what is imagined? the nature of the fake and the authentic object, the art of showmanship and illusion through this experimental performance piece, drawing on the entertainment iconography of early astronaut training.
Leonid Tishkov’s Private Moon, by contrast, brings the Moon down to us. Tishkov tells the story of a man who met the Moon and stayed with her for the rest of his life. In a series of photographs, the artist pairs images of his private moon with verse which describes how the Moon helps us to overcome our loneliness in the universe by uniting us around it. Tishkov and his illuminated moon have travelled the world for almost ten years. He has a dream to fly with her to the Moon.
Transforming the everyday into the mesmerisingly beautiful, Sharon Houkema’s M3, created with characteristic simplicity with an overhead projector and a bucket of water, conjures a moon so tantalisingly close you can almost hold it.
Interweaving artistic metaphor and scientific rigour, Andy Gracie‘s DIY-astrobiology experiment Drosophila Titanus attempts to select and breed an organism – a new strain of fruit fly – that might survive on Titan, a moon of Saturn. The artist recreates the environmental and atmospheric conditions found on Titan using everyday materials such as vodka, smoke alarms and a bicycle pump. The first iteration of the experiment was performed by Gracie with Kuaishen Auson, Janine Fenton and Meredith Walsh, in Laboratory Life co-commissioned by Arts Catalyst and Lighthouse earlier this year.
In Liliane Lijn’s moonmeme, the artist reveals her concept to write on the Moon from the Earth using a laser beam. The word ‘SHE' is projected onto the surface of the moon, the meaning of this word being gradually transformed as the Moon moves through its phases, the work combines territorial appropriation, the technological extension of human consciousness and mythologies. moonmeme is a symbolic union of opposites and an homage to the feminine principal of transformation and renewal.
The artists in Republic of the Moon regard the lunar orb not as a resource to be exploited but as a heavenly body that belongs to us all. Who will be the first colonisers of the Moon? Perhaps it should be the artists.
Occupy the Moon
To coincide with the opening of Republic of the Moon, Arts Catalyst has commissioned Tony White to write a short fiction Occupy the Moon.
Republic of the Moon is a touring exhibition and programme curated by Arts Catalyst and FACT. It has been made possible with Grants for the Arts support from Arts Council England.
Moon Goose Analogue: Lunar Migration Bird Facility, 2011 links directly to Meyer-Brandis's, Moon Goose Colony, 2011, a project during her residency at Pollinaria, Italy, the site of the remote analogue habitat where the artist has raised and houses the colony of moon geese. Pollinaria, Italy