A couple of days ago I visited the Republic of the Moon which currently occupies the gallery spaces of FACT. To this new Republic I am taking lots of expectations and a head full of Space Junk. So if I am honest any notion of addressing this exhibition on a solely artistic level is going out the airlock.
As I enter Gallery 1 I see the Mission Control for Agnes Meyer-Brandis's The Moon Goose Analogue and I brush pass what is the primer for the piece. I already know that this piece was inspired by Francis Goodwin image of a Goose driven chariot being flown to the moon. Once through the door I'm met by large screen feeding me important data regarding the Moon Geese, data echoed by smaller monitors set into a control desk. It's like being on the set of a cheap sci-fi, I mean that in a good way; remember I'm a big nerd.
I find myself becoming quite excited; I'm trying not to giggle like a child hopped up on sugar. I take one of the seats in front of the control desk and fight back the urge to start Techno-babbling. You know to start saying things like 'Goose-Com 1, we are Go-No-Go for Launch'. I pay attention to the poetic images displayed on the screen in front of me, which deserves my attention. What I assume is the artist leading a gaggle of geese with a shining moon on a stick. It's an image which is both beautiful and full of humour as is image of a lone figure sweeping a crater.
The whole piece is a collision between the poetic and pragmatic, like the original race to the Moon where the dream of going and living on the Moon was backed up by the practicality of solid fuel rockets.
I drag myself away; there are other pieces to see. Awaiting me in Gallery 2 is another set of doors, or rather an airlock in which to enter WE COLONIZED THE MOON's Enter at your Own Risk. Once through the airlock a circle of moon rocks sitting in a circle accompanied by a white stool and a spray can. The objects sit there in quiet expectation, like the spacesuit in storage that seems to be waiting, waiting to be animated. I wonder if this is a reflection of the idea that the Moon is quietly awaiting our return. Also it maybe the fact that this installation is the stage for a performance that feeds into this sensation of expectation.
Opposite Enter at your Own Risk is Andy Gracie's Drosophila Titanus an experiment to create a Fruit Fly which can survive within the atmosphere of Saturn's moon Titan. It's the most scientific, or scientific looking, of all the pieces the in the exhibition and it's the piece I feel that I'll have to do some homework on and return to.
Sharing the space with Drosophila Titanus are two incredibly poetic pieces. In the space wisps of fog drift over an overhead projector while it throws a watery Moon against the wall. This is Sharon Houkema's M3 an attempt to make the intangible, tangible by using the means, OHP, water, is that a photocopy? at your disposal. Of course this pursuit of the intangible leads only to more intangibility but that's not the point, again there's a parallel to the Moon Race to be made here, where the want and the need to go to the Moon is as important as going there.
Another artificial moon awaits us in the images of Leonid Tishkov, where in a series of photographs Private Moon details one man's individual relationship with a crescent moon. These images reflect our relationship the Moon, a private, yet shared relationship. An individual relationship which is shaped by our cultural notions. The still image is accompanied by a video in which Tishkov in a boat on a lake casts a net in order to catch a floating moon. Within this video there is captured the longing of half remembered fantasies of plucking the moon from puddles, perhaps every time we look towards the moon we are plucking it from its original site and placing it within private sky of our imagination.
Finally there is Moomeme by Lilliane Lijin which details an incredibly ambitious proposal to use a laser to project the word SHE onto the surface of the Moon. At one point Lijin puts forwards the suggested use of orbital stencils. I can't but think about an episode of The Tick comic where one of the villain's is thwarted in their attempt to laser etch their name in the Moon leaving the letters CHA for generations to ponder about. I am not compering Lijin with cartoon supervillians, but the piece requires us to reflect on the possibility of the misuse of the Moon. If it became possible to turn the Moon into a floating billboard surely that would destroy millennia of romantic notions of the Moon.
Maybe the Moon deserves some protection from the corporations, who see the Moon as another asset. Part of that protection must come from an imaginative and poetic reengagement with the Moon to remember its intangible value, its influence. This is the aim of the artists in the exhibition to ensure that the Republic of the Moon is populated by people who dream of the desolate beauty of a new space home a quarter of a million miles away.