Studio International

Published 23/01/2014

Republic of the Moon

Agnes Meyer-Brandis, Sue Corke and Hagen Betzwieser (AKA WE COLONISED THE MOON), Liliane Lijn, Katie Paterson, Leonid Tishkov and Moon Vehicle
Bargehouse, Oxo Tower Wharf, London
10 January – 2 February 2014

Written and presented by ANNA McNAY
Filmed by MARTIN KENNEDY

To mark the start of its 20th year, the Arts Catalyst, an organisation that puts a cultural spin on science and technology, has taken over the Bargehouse, declared it an Earth-based embassy for the Republic of the Moon, and filled it with artists and their fantastical works.

The moon has always been a popular subject for dreamers and imaginers, and what are artists if not this?

It is now more than four decades since humans first walked on the moon, but with China’s landing of Jade Rabbit in December and Google’s sponsored competition to spur private companies into landing similar vehicles by the end of 2015, talk of making our satellite the base for further research and space exploration is being renewed.

In Private Moon, Leonid Tishkov tells the story of a man who met the moon and stayed with her for the rest of his life. A metaphor for how the moon can help us overcome our loneliness in the universe, Tishkov’s series of photographs show the crescent moon and her lover as they travel the world – a feat the artist himself undertook. His dream remains to fly to the actual moon with his illuminated replica.

Katie Paterson’s work takes a more directly scientific approach. For Earth–Moon–Earth, she translated Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata into Morse code and sent it to the moon and back. It returned in a fragmented form, with the moon’s surface having absorbed some of the code, and Paterson has re-translated this into a new score, which is being performed on a self-playing grand piano in the exhibition.

Fourth Plinth candidate Liliane Lijn has produced a work called moonmeme, in which the word SHE is projected on to a real-time animation of the waxing and waning lunar surface.

Perhaps the most enchanting and intriguing work in the exhibition is by Agnes Meyer-Brandis. Inspired by a 17th-century tale in which the protagonist flies to the moon in a chariot towed by “moon geese”, she has created an entire phantasmagorical scenario, raising 11 geese from birth, ensuring she was the first thing they saw, and thus that they consider her to be their mother, giving them astronauts’ names such as Neil, Buzz and Svetlana, and training them to fly and go on expeditions.

Artist duo Sue Corke and Hagen Betzwieser, AKA WE COLONISED THE MOON, have been the Republic of the Moon’s artists in residence. Their work has coordinated protests against the exploitation of the moon. They also carried out the largest ever moon smelling session with a packed audience, hundreds of balloons filled with a specially created, evidence-based scent and cocktail sticks.

Finally, another duo known as Moon Vehicle are presenting a project devised by some students in Bangalore, India. All of this, along with a manifesto declaring the moon a temporary autonomous zone and a Pop Rock Moon Shop selling all manner of discerning lunar ephemera, are here for visitors to enjoy.