Forty five years since that one small step for man, a group of experimental artists have declared a Republic of the Moon right here on earth.
The Arts Catalyst is an organisation commissioning experimental artwork that engages with science and “sparks dynamic conversation around the world”. For their latest experiment London’s Bargehouse at OXO Tower Wharf has been transformed into an “Earth-based embassy” for the Republic of the Moon, re-examining the human relationship through a series of workshops and events.
At a time when the idea “one day we’ll all live on the moon” becomes increasingly more possible and corporate ownership threatens to extend to space, this collection of forward thinking artists celebrate the moon’s significance and reclaim it as a “heavenly body that belongs to all of us”.
On entering the exhibition Liliane Lijn’s ‘Moonmeme’ instantly plunges you into darkness while ethereal whispers of ‘SHE’ repeat around you and seem to grow continually louder. In front ‘SHE’ slowly appears and disappears on the lunar surface, reflecting the cycle of the moon’s phases and making the connection with the feminine principal of transformation and renewal.
Katie Paterson’s ‘Earth – Moon – Earth’ sees a piano deserted in the middle of an empty room, the keys move alone filling the abandoned space with the soft sound of Beethoven’s ‘Moonlight Sonata’. Standing in this room it’s easy to forget you’re on London’s South Bank and haven’t fallen into a twilight zone-esque dream. Fascinatingly the melody is the result of the sonata being translated into morse code, sent to the moon via satellite and returned to earth. Information has been lost in the moon’s shadows and so creates new gaps and absences to the piece for a new moon-altered Sonata.
Leonid Tishkov describes his ‘Private Moon’ series as a “visual poem”. A series of photographs beautifully and intimately narrate the story of a man who met the moon and stayed with her for the rest of his life. Accompanied by verse and a giant illuminated crescent moon structure, the installation describes how the moon helps us to overcome our loneliness in the universe by uniting it around us. This was a personal favourite of mine even before I had heard the back story, more so after learning that Tishkov has been travelling with her for ten years and dreams to one day fly her to the moon.
Sue Corke and Hagan Betzwieser’s WE COLONISED THE MOON embodies a child-like wonder at the universe. The two ‘Republic of The Moon’ artists in residence will coordinate protests throughout the exhibition against exploitation of the moon, and work with scientists to help us rediscover our closest “celestial neighbour”.
Other features include Joanna Griffin’s presentation of a Srishti Scool of Art project with ‘Moon Vehicle’ and Agnes Meyer-Brandis’ ‘Moon Goose Analogue: Lunar Migration Bird Facility’, an investigation which weaves fact and imagination through an experiment inspired by Francis Godwin’s ‘The Man in The Moone’.
The four-storey Bargehouse provides the perfect raw environment for this eclectic combination of art and science, and combined with the multi-sensory nature of the exhibition can at times feel like being lost in time and space.
My first thought was that the focus of this exhibition is more of scientific investigation and experimentation than of art, something I was surprised to find. But I have since realised that the creation of the ‘Republic of the Moon’ is an installation in itself; provoking thoughts, ideas and questions through music, design, written word and more. It rebels, demands change and offers inspiration.
Republic of the Moon is open until Sunday 2nd February at Bargehouse, OXO Tower Wharf, South Bank, London, SE1 9PH
Open Daily 11am to 6pm
Check the website for a lively programme of events including talks, tours, think tanks, workshops and Kosmica: The Full Moon Party.