The Republic of the Moon exhibition recently shown at the Bargehouse, comes as a refreshingly creative outlook on how we perceive the moon in the 21st century. Both culturally and scientifically pertinent, this display functions as an exhibition of several creative collaborators coming together and interpreting our longstanding relationship with the moon.
Moon, mōna, lunar, selene: the natural satellite of earth, visible by reflected light from the sun. Our definition of the moon doesn’t quite seem to establish its beauty or magnitude as a vital element to our solar orbit. Yet, The Arts Catalyst collective manages to do precisely this, demonstrating the magnificence of the moon through a kind of pop-up lunar embassy on earth, at the Oxo Tower in central London.
Proceeding through a lunar programme, the exhibition develops and changes parallel to the moon’s calendar. With installation works such as Liliane Lijn’s moonmeme, actually corresponding to the moon’s early 2014 cycle through a projection of real-time moon transformation. This is the first work one comes across as a visitor to the exhibition, and it is undeniably curious. In a blackened room with nothing but the moon’s projected image with the word ‘SHE’ hovering over it, and an accompanying sound work narrating the word ‘SHE’, one becomes simultaneously uneasy and inquisitive.
Throughout the display, the moon is repeatedly referred to as ‘she’ or ‘her’, feminising the Republic of the Moon (after all the Greek word for moon – selene – also translates to the goddess of the moon). As a visitor, I felt that this romanticised the exhibition intertwining the cultural and scientific links ever more tightly; something which I prematurely assumed would be a struggle for the general discourse of the display.
The warehouse space parades bare red brick walls, concrete floors and large glass panel windows (what we presume to be part of the original architecture of the building), which surprisingly suit the exhibitions rough-and-ready display of work. It specifically compliments the wall-hung works by Leonid Tishkov in his Private Moon series.
Private Moon was the highlight of this exhibition for me. Tishkov’s work consisted of a film, a series of photographs and an illuminated moon installation, which comfortably filled one of the long warehouse rooms. Though less scientific and more romantic (his works are visual poems associated with a written poem by the artist), the work beautifully depicts one man’s relationship with the moon over ten years. It is a creative position, telling of how the moon helps us to overcome our loneliness in the universe by uniting us around it.
From Tishkov’s dreamy work we are led to the alternative practice of Agnes Meyer-Brandis, a German artist whom attempts to revive the 1638 novel Man in the Moone by Francis Godwin (where a protagonist flies to the moon on a chariot towed by ‘moon geese’). Meyer-Brandis recreates this work through a video-documentary titled Moon Geese Analogue: Luna Bird Migration Facility, in which she raises eleven geese with expedition training, in preparation for their fictitious mission to the moon.
Republic of the Moon is a unique exhibition with quirky and aesthetically pleasing elements to it, something which no other exhibition of late has managed to succeed in demonstrating. It tells a narrative of both cultural and scientific significance, altering the way in which we consider the moon in our everyday lives. After visiting the Republic of the Moon, you will never look at the moon the same way again.
Ultimately, an invitation to the moon has never been so culturally appealing.