It's four decades since humans walked on the Moon, but it now seems likely that we will return there this century – whether to mine for its minerals, as a ‘stepping stone’ to Mars, or simply to do scientific research. In a provocative pre-emptive action, a group of artists are declaring a Republic of the Moon here on Earth, to re-examine our relationship with our planet’s only natural satellite.
After two decades working with space dreamers from the European Space Agency to anarchist autonomous astronauts, The Arts Catalyst transformed Bargehouse into an Earth-based embassy for a Republic of the Moon, filled with artists’ fantastical imaginings. Presenting international artists including Liliane Lijn, Leonid Tishkov, Katie Paterson, Agnes Meyer Brandis and WE COLONISED THE MOON, the exhibition combined personal encounters, DIY space plans, imaginary expeditions and new myths for the next space age.
Marking the start of its twentieth anniversary year, The Arts Catalyst animated the exhibition with performances, workshops, music, talks, a pop-up moon shop by super/collider and playful protests against lunar exploitation. A manifesto declaring the Moon a temporary autonomous zone, with responses from artists and scientists to novelist Tony White’s call to “Occupy the Moon!” was published in print and e-Book formats to coincide with the exhibition.
The artists in Republic of the Moon regard the Moon not as a resource to be exploited but as a heavenly body that belongs to us all. The exhibition asks: Who will be the first colonisers of the Moon? Perhaps it should be the artists.
Agnes Meyer-Brandis’ poetic-scientific investigations weave together fact, imagination, storytelling and myth, from past, present and future. In Moon Goose Analogue: Lunar Migration Bird Facility, the artist develops an ongoing narrative based on the book The Man in the Moone, written by English bishop Francis Godwin in the 1630s, 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 has built 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). Moon Goose Analogue: Luna Bird Migration Facility the documentary film of this project was Ars Electronica award of distinction winner 2012.
Katie Paterson Second Moon and Earth–Moon–Earth. Second Moon is Paterson's project tracking the cyclical journey of a small fragment of the Moon as it circles the Earth, via airfreight courier, on a man made commercial orbit. Second Moon makes an anticlockwise journey; orbiting at approximately twice the speed of our Moon, it orbits Earth about 30 times in one year. The journey could be followed on a free App. Earth–Moon–Earth (Moonlight Sonata Reflected from the Surface of the Moon) involved using a form of radio transmission whereby messages are sent in Morse code, from earth, reflected from the surface of the moon and then received back on earth. The moon reflects only part of the information back – some is absorbed in its shadows, ‘lost’ in its craters. For this work Paterson has translated Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata into Morse code and sent it to the moon via Earth-Moon-Earth (EME). Returning to earth fragmented by the moon's surface, it has been re-translated into a new score, the gaps and absences becoming intervals and rests. In the exhibition the moon–altered score is performed on a self-playing grand piano.
Liliane Lijn’s moonmeme explores the repeating cycle of the Moon’s phases, projecting the word 'SHE', an epithet for the Moon, onto the lunar surface so the letters slowly emerge and then disappear as it wanes. Since lunar projection is so challenging technically, Lijn has worked with an astronomer to present a real-time animation of the projection accompanied by a sound work and by quotations from sources including Pliny and the Talmud to illustrate the profound connections between the Moon and the feminine principal of transformation and renewal.
Leonid Tishkov’s Private Moon tells the story of a man who met the Moon and stayed with her for the rest of his life. In a series of intimate 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.
WE COLONISED THE MOON (Sue Corke and Hagen Betzwieser) were the Republic of the Moon’s artists in residence throughout the exhibition, creating work and running talks and workshops. Corke and Betzwieser’s graphic art and installation projects embody a child-like wonder at the universe. Employing a range of DIY production techniques, their partnership is rooted in absurdism and theatrical performance characterised by slogans and catchphrases. At the Bargehouse, they coordinated protests against the exploitation of the Moon and working with scientists to help us look afresh at our closest celestial neighbour.
Moon Vehicle (Joanna Griffin and ISRO scientist P Shreekumar) a presentation of a project devised by the students at Srishti School of Arts, Bangalore, India, with artist Joanna Griffin. Its focus was to reclaim a cultural connection with the Indian Chandrayaan space programme challenging the now-dominant scientific narrative of the Moon and reasserting other imaginaries inspired by Indian narratives of self-determination and agency.
Pop Rock Moon Shop designed by super/collider sold all manner of discerning lunar ephemera.
A Manifesto for the Republic of the Moon published to accompany the exhibition, edited by curator, Rob La Frenais and including Tony White's specially commissioned short fiction Occupy the Moon!, it is available in print, or for free download in .epub and .pdf formats.
Republic of the Moon is a touring exhibition, commissioned by The Arts Catalyst with FACT. The first version of the exhibition was presented at FACT Liverpool in winter 2012. The exhibition and residency has been made possible with Grants for the Arts support from Arts Council England and Science & Technology Facilities Council.
Moon Goose Analogue: Lunar Migration Bird Facility 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. With thanks to Z33 co-producers of Moon Goose Analogue, shown In Space Odyssey 2.0.
Second Moon has been commissioned by Locus+ in partnership with Newcastle University and Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums. Supported by Arts Council England, Adelaide Festival and Newcastle City Council
Bargehouse is owned and managed by social enterprise, Coin Street Community Builders: www.coinstreet.org