Seven artists and 11 geese declare a Republic of the Moon at FACT Liverpool

By Mark Sheerin | 20 December 2011
Colour photo of geese appearing on CCTV
Agnes Meyer-Brandis, The Moon Goose Analogue: Lunar Migration Facility (2011). Installation view at FACT as part of Republic of the Moon© Brian Slater
Exhibition: Republic of the Moon, Foundation for Art and Creative Technology, Liverpool, until February 26 2012

The first man on the moon, imaginatively speaking, was called Francis Godwin, and he got there in 1638 by means of a fictional book. That publication, The man in the Moone, featured a lunar chariot borne spacewards by a flock of geese.

More than 300 years later, science has caught up. Apollo landings ran between 1969 to 1971. Which makes the last 40 years seem like a hiatus while we consider our military or mining options.

That would be a very prosaic fate for the much dreamed of destination. So FACT is trying to redress the balance by giving seven artists the chance to plant new flags on the moon - in a metaphorical sense, of course.

The most spectacular is a new commission by Agnes Meyer-Brandis. The German artist has built a pulse-quickening mission control room from which you can watch 11 moon geese of her own waddle about on the dusty surface of the moon.

Colour photo of a man looking into a microscope
Andy Gracie, Drosophila Titanus (2010). Installation view at FACT as part of Republic of the Moon© Brian Slater
Of course, they are not really 400,000 kilometres away, but in a purpose-built "analogue" set up in Pollinaria, Italy. These geese are still being trained for a flight they might one day make, and if attention to detail will suffice they surely will.

Meyer-Brandis has thought of everything. She reads to them in the days before they hatch. She swims with them. She names them after astronauts. She straps a V-frame to her bike and takes them for runs. A film next door is charming and comical.

There's more of what you might call pseudo science, or better still, wishful science in the work of Andy Gracie. His project aims to breed fruitfly which could live on one of Saturn’s moons. Drosophilia Titanus seems both rigorous and reassuringly DIY.

A third project which might never really be achieved is Liliane Lijn's moonmeme. It would require all the energy on the planet to project her piece into space. So at FACT we are offered a simulation, a black box sound piece designed around the word "she".

Colour photo of the moon in near darkness with the letters S and H projected onto the surface
Liliane Lijn, moonmeme (1992-2011). Installation view at FACT as part of Republic of the Moon© Brian Slater
It is these three pieces - literally shooting for the moon - which best capture the spirit of the arts and certainly the show in question. But the other large commission in Republic of the Moon goes somewhat against the fantastical grain.

WE COLONISED THE MOON have developed a performance piece with an airlock in which the key element is a scent, which we are told is the odour of moon dust. There are moments of tense fun to be has as a man in a space suit sprays it on a group of rocks.

But one can only conclude it is better to travel in hope. The performance reminds us the real life moon is dusty, weird smelling and barren. So lunar geese, to this visitor's mind at least, seem much preferable to landing modules.
  • Open 12pm-6pm (11am Saturday, closed December 24-26 and January 1). Admission free.
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