Lunatic artists: 'Republic of the Moon'

A new show sees artists reaching for the moon. But what have Beethoven, shopping trolleys and geese got to do with space travel?

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© Agnes Meyer-Brandis


'I think artists should be part of a human outpost on the moon,' says Rob La Frenais, curator of art-science mash-up merchants Arts Catalyst and man responsible for 'Republic of the Moon', an exhibition that opens on the South Bank this Friday. While it's been 40 years since we humans last made the giant leap, China recently hit the headlines when it landed its Jade Rabbit rover on the moon and a manned mission looks likely in the coming decades. Given China's stated intention to exploit the moon's mineral resources, La Frenais believes this is the right time to be having a conversation about 'who owns the moon and who will own the moon in the future.'

'Republic of the Moon' aims to turn the gallery into a lunar embassy on earth. When you arrive you'll be handed a manifesto, 'a mixture of artists' statements about what they'd do if they got to the moon, some poems, a scientific paper, a couple of rants,' explains La Frenais. But the emphasis is on fantastical art, as well as talks, performances and workshops, including the Kosmica Full Moon Party with music by Orchestra Elastique on January 16. 'This isn't a science communication show,' says La Frenais. 'Artists come at things from a different angle. Their job is not to explain science but to reflect on it.' For a taste of those reflections, La Frenais picks key works from the show.

© Leonid Tishkov

'Private Moon' by Leonid Tishkov

‘The idea of this Russian artist’s private moon is that he takes this miniature moon around with him wherever he goes, so you get the moon in often banal or domestic situations. But the resulting pictures are very beautiful. They explore the very personal relationship we all have with a celestial body.’

© Agnes Meyer-Brandis

‘Moon Goose’ by Agnes Meyer-Brandis

‘The German artist took the world’s first science fiction novel, ‘The Man in the Moone’, written in the 16th century by the English bishop Francis Godwin. The book is a fantasy about a man who is flown to the moon by wild swans. Meyer-Brandis was already obsessed with geese, so she decided to breed some rare, long-necked geese but go along with the fantasy that these could “grow” into astronauts. She’s even named them after astronauts – like "Uri" and "Neil". There are amazing pictures and a film of her and the geese doing what she calls “training exercises” – like swimming and learning to fly. The other part of the installation is a live link to the farm in Italy where they live. Meyer-Brandis has made a lunar-like surface for them to peck about on, with webcams that lead to “ground control” in the gallery. Obviously you can’t communicate with the geese, they’re geese and we’re humans. But you can interact with them.’

© We Colonised the Moon

‘Moon Rover’ and ‘The Smell of the Moon’ by We Colonised the Moon

We Colonised the Moon are a London-based duo, Sue Corke and Hagen Betzwieser, who will be building a moon rover from a shopping trolley and doing other DIY things, along with holding serious discussions including a talk by a theologian about whether God exists on the moon. They have also got a perfumier to manufacture the smell of the moon. They had it sent to Buzz Aldrin who says that it does indeed resemble the aroma the suits made when they came back into the Apollo capsule. It’s a metallic smell that you’ll be able to experience in the show.’

© Katie Patterson

‘Earth-Moon-Earth’ and ‘Second Moon’ by Katie Paterson

‘For “Earth-Moon-Earth” the Scottish artist transmitted Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” to the moon and then “bounced” it back with all the distortions that long-term radio transmissions bring. She then fed it into a computer program that operates an automatic piano in the gallery, so you get this ghostly, broken down version of “Moonlight Sonata” playing during the show. For “Second Moon” a piece of lunar meteorite is being taken round the world by UPS courier. It’s been circling the earth for a year but it’s difficult to track because it keeps getting held up by customs. We’re hoping to arrange a live event where it will arrive at the gallery.’


See more out of this world images from the show

  • Agnes Meyer-Brandis

    'Moon Goose'

    © Agnes Meyer-Brandis, courtesy The Arts Catalyst

    Agnes Meyer-Brandis
  • Leonid Tishkov

    'Private Moon'

    © Leonid Tishkov, courtesy The Arts Catalyst

    Leonid Tishkov
  • Agnes Meyer-Brandis

    'Moon Goose'

    © Agnes Meyer-Brandis, courtesy The Arts Catalyst

    Agnes Meyer-Brandis
  • Agnes Meyer-Brandis

    'Moon Goose'

    © Agnes Meyer-Brandis, courtesy The Arts Catalyst

    Agnes Meyer-Brandis
  • Agnes Meyer-Brandis

    'Moon Goose'

    © Agnes Meyer-Brandis, courtesy The Arts Catalyst

    Agnes Meyer-Brandis
  • Liliane Lijn

    'Moon Meme'

    © Liliane Lijn, courtesy The Arts Catalyst

    Liliane Lijn
  • Leonid Tishkov

    'Private Moon'

    © Leonid Tishkov, courtesy The Arts Catalyst

    Leonid Tishkov

Agnes Meyer-Brandis

'Moon Goose'

© Agnes Meyer-Brandis, courtesy The Arts Catalyst


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