Art and the moon! Superstition, mythology, legend and ritual have linked the human race to the moon in a directly artistic way through the ages - various illustrations, fables and stories over centuries across cultures in all languages, culminating in the childhood tales we all remember, of the mystical "man in the moon".
Since humans first set the lunar module down on the moon’s desolate surface on July 20, 1969, when Neil Armstrong famously declared "That’s one small step for (a) man; one giant leap for mankind", the fictitious folklore of the "man in the moon has been summarily replaced by the scientific reality of "man on the moon", a penetration into the unknown space-time envelope by our sentient species affording enormous possibilities for human culture to develop on the moon, and the role not just of science in space exploration, but equally of fine art.
Believing that "art is not necessarily a purely earth-based activity" as human cultural activity naturally follows human geographic expansion wherever the race ventures and probes into the universe, in November 2007 Christopher Hodson opportunistically purchased a one-acre plot of land on the moon from Moon Estates Ltd for £20, with documentation from the "Lunar Embassy citing the precise acreage as 14ºN 32ºW: Area E-5 Foxtrot Quadrant, Lot Number 405/1004.
Using a lunar map Hodson was able to pinpoint the exact location of the land at the northern foot of a mountain about 40km north-north-east of the crater Kepler, the mountain being approximately 400m at is highest point and 2000m at its longest stretch. He then modeled the terrain using a 3D computer graphics program.
He is under no illusion that he actually owns a plot of the moon; he does not as the contract is not legally binding, the purchase being of novelty value only, as according to the United Nations Space Charter (1965) no singular entity or coalition of countries on Earth can lay possessive claim on any land or resources in the solar system.
Hodson has become aware from personal experience that space agencies, such as NASA and the European Space Agency, are not warm to the idea of exhibiting art in outer space, due largely to the fact that science, as striated (structured) space deals objectively with "the controlled collection and dissemination of knowledge", and art, as smooth (unstructured or free form) space deals with "a more organically subjective approach".
With this in mind, he decided to found his own artistic space agency in order to facilitate the outer space art project he had formulated of a premier art exposition on the expansive and dusty emptiness of the moon’s lifeless surface, by mounting it in virtual reality…unheeded by government agencies or political bureaucracies and all their rules of rights, ownership and authority.
So during 2008 he actively scanned the art world for artist proposals to install art objects on the surface of the moon, should that possibility eventuate in the near future. Each potential artist was required to establish their "suitability for the project by "demonstrating an intriguing and thought provoking practice, strong visual and conceptual style, and the influence of science and technology in their (specific) practice."
Utilizing the plot of the moonscape for which he holds the Lunar Embassy title, Hodson then requested that the artists design a work sympathetic to the context of that lunar site, in any form the artist so desired. The artists chosen are from a variety of countries, representing the egalitarian notion that moon does not belong to any one person, country or artistic style.
Based on NASA's mission control room from the 1960's, and utilizing many screens and monitors as a means to display and organize the works, he has designed and constructed a website devoted wholly to this 14°N 32°W moon exhibition.
"This entire project focusing on employing non Earth locations for the installation and display of artwork is an exciting and attractive one, which was borne out of my earlier work which dealt with the mysteries of the universe, empiricism and the various philosophies which surround man's exploration and advancement through science, Hodson says.
"Initially I was concerned with the idea that perhaps the best context for some of the work I myself was doing was to actually to think about attempting to place it outside of the Earth's atmosphere, where better to display a work dealing with light years than in an environment where that basis of measurement is the only one that fits?"
From those few inchoate thoughts and the serendipitous purchase of the moonscape block, his art imagination took off like a rocket in a scientific flight-track upwards - igniting in this fascinating, challenging and path-finding showcase.
Exhibitors chosen are Jim Hamlyn, Circlemakers, Chris Hodson, Bibi Calderaro, Tamas K.Szvet, and Nicole Mortiboys, each operating from very different reference points, perceptions and conceptions, and all challenging in their own unique manner the doctrines that silently and surreptitiously corrupt free expression in the visual arts - and in so doing they go a long way towards dissolving the illusory barriers between true art and empirical science.
Jim Hamlyn exhaustively documents a single poppy seed using cutting-edge technologies, such that the single seed would be archived, placed in secure storage on earth and then transported and deposited as near to the prescribed project location as possible.
Bibi Calderaro’s site-specific moon-based installation features a Nightingale singing an original song about the aesthetic possibilities of subjects and objects, after Kant.
Tamas K.Szvet’s plan is to install a prism on the moon’s surface to spontaneously create a similar effect in the lunar cycle as the natural lighting effects of a rainbow and the polar light, Aurora Borealis.
Nicole Mortiboys proposal is a film entitled "Bars and Tones", running one minute, displaying spectral contrast colour bars as the marker for the equipment intended to be used, accompanied by aural tones set at one decibel, thus allowing the user to set the playback volume and check the equipment.
The Circlemakers, an art collective who specialize in making crop circles, has created a Moon Dust Circle based on a binary number code which from the viewer perspective spells out "You Are Not Alone".
Christopher Hodson’s exhibit is a large version of Newton’s cradle which sits on the lunar surface, securely anchored in the rocky soil. An astronaut then pulls back one or more of the balls, lets it go so it collides with the first of its neighouring balls. The potential energy released then passes through the spheres to the balls on the cradle’s other end, and the energy then returns through the balls to the sphere that began the motion. Due to an absence of atmosphere on the moon this swinging colliding process could continue perpetually without sound.
written by Michael Berry. 2009.