21 June 2010

The Lunar Art Gallery

While there are some beady-eyed, tinfoil hatted idiots who will say categorically that this story is impossible (no Moon landings –the films were faked in a quarry in North Wales) this is something that I hope is absolutely true.

According to an AOL news story one of the engineers who built the lunar module for the Apollo 12, the second moon landing, snuck aboard a tiny ceramic chip containing original artwork by six of the American art world's biggest names, including Andy Warhol, Claes Oldenburg and Robert Rauschenberg, creating a permanent miniature art museum on the moon.

The tiny tile holding all six pieces is only three-quarters of an inch by half an inch. It was affixed to one of the legs on the lunar module. Its existence has been a secret known only by a select few people, including renowned New York artist Forrest "Frosty" Myers, who created the "Moon Museum" and contributed a drawing, and a deceased engineer who worked on the project and is only known by the cryptic name "John F."

But now, the whole picture of how the mini museum made it to the moon is coming to light thanks to the PBS series "History Detectives,”. The show features four history experts who track down the history of obscure artefacts sent in by readers.

In this case, series host and historian Gwendolyn Wright found out about this piece of history from Jade Dellinger, a Florida-based art curator who bought a reproduction of the tile via an online auction. Wright admits she was sceptical about the tile's provenance, but after all the research now admits it's one of the "strangest, most exciting" experiences of her life.

"I will never think of the moon in the same way again," Wright said. "This case truly surprised me. What I thought seemed impossible, at first, became an amazing story of art winning its place alongside science, and some playful innovation that is sure to intrigue history buffs, space lovers and art aficionados alike."

As artworks go, none of the pieces here are going to stand next to these artists' greatest works. For instance, the Warhol piece is basically his initials made to look like a rocket or a phallic symbol depending on your mindset, and Rauschenburg's contribution is a single minimalist line. Meanwhile, David Novros and John Chamberlain contributed drawings that look like circuitry.

The artists did normal-sized pieces and then Bell Laboratories scientist Fred Waldhauer reduced the artists' sketches and imprinted them onto the ceramic wafer using state-of-the-art technology of the time. Waldhauer made a number of tiles -- one for the lunar module, and copies as souvenirs for the artists and other participants.

Myers actually tried to get the art aboard Apollo 12 by going through normal channels, but while NASA officials never said no, they never said yes, either, leaving the project in limbo. That is, until a contact hooked him up with the mysterious "John F.," an aerospace engineer who worked on the rocket.

This "unknown solderer," as some people call him, promised to send Myers a telegram when the mini museum was stuck onto the craft. Shortly before the rocket launch was set to begin, he got one, reading, "You're on. A-OK. All systems are go," and signed "John F."

While the real identity of John F. remains a mystery, Richard Kupczyk, the Grumman launch pad foreman for the Apollo 12 mission, suggests it may be a pseudonym to protect the engineer's real identity; he imagines the name was chosen as a nod to John F. Kennedy, the president who championed the space program.

I’m not sure if History Detectives is shown here but I would love to see this episode. I really hope it is true. Even if the art is not great the idea of a gallery on the Moon appeals. In addition it will be the only picture that looks like a penis on our satellite for the foreseeable future!


Steve Bates said...

Did Oldenburg contribute a Soft LEM?

jams o donnell said...

Sadly just a little sketch Steve!

James Higham said...

the films were faked in a quarry in North Wales

The scientists weren't saying that. They maintained it was faked in the Nevada desert and one of the major obstacles was the Van Allen Belt.

Claudia said...

Of course, it has to look like a glorious penis on the satellite (says she, with laughter). What else would be more dignified?

susan said...

That's it. I'm starting on that wooden rocket ship in the morning and will launch it at the moon next weekend with one of my paintings inside.

jams o donnell said...

Not many scientists saying that James. Let'sface it if hte US hadn't gone to the moon the Soviets would have had a propaganda field day

Hah Claudia. It just had to be there!

Susan there's an idea for a huge collaborative artwork!

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

I hope it's true, too. A moon app, perhaps.

Of course the landing was faked in Wales - everything happens in Wales!

jams o donnell said...

If it was good enough for Blake's Seven and Doctor Who (and Torchwood too) then it's prime territory for Nasa!

Greyscale Territory said...

I had no idea about any of this! I only knew of some people who believed that the moon landing was filmed at Drumheller's Badlands (Hoo Doos) in Canada! I actually visited the area on a trip to Canada! Really enjoyed this post!

jams o donnell said...

It's a truly wonderful tale Gemma. I hope it's true

Susan said...

Nice Blogging. Looking forward for your many more Arts. I love visiting online art gallery.