Tuesday, 13 July 2010


21 July - 31 August 2009


'Permit me,’ he continued, ‘to recount to you
briefly how certain ardent spirits, starting
on imaginary journeys, have penetrated the
secrets of our satellite'.
- Jules Verne, From the Earth to the Moon (1865)

Coinciding with the 40th anniversary of the
Apollo 11 lunar landing, Deceitful Moon is an
exhibition of works by British and international
artists that explores the moon as a site for
misinformation, misrepresentation and
mistrust. Touching on a long-standing tradition
of hoaxes and conspiracy theories that found
its first modern expression in the ‘Great
Moon Hoax’ played by The New York Sun in
1835 (in which a series of newspaper articles
detailed life on the moon as observed through
a powerful telescope) the show, like the tarot
card that bears its name, turns on obfuscation
and doubt. Deceitful Moon is, in part, a
response to the current vogue for exhibitions
marking the anniversary of major events in
world history. But rather than commemorating
Neil Armstrong’s famous ‘one small step for
man, one giant leap for mankind’, it pays tribute
to a lingering uncertainty somewhere on the
dark side of our cultural imagination as to
whether human feet have ever touched the
moon’s grey, inhospitable surface.

In a 1962 speech given at Rice University, Texas,
about the future of the US Space Programme,
President John F Kennedy remarked:
‘We choose to go to the moon. We choose to
go to the moon in this decade […] not because
[it is] easy, but because [it is] hard, because
that goal will serve to organise and measure
the best of our energies and skills, because
that challenge is one that we are willing to
accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and
one which we intend to win.’ While the Apollo
11 mission was focused firmly on scientific
verification and the glory of a nation and of a
species, the artists in Deceitful Moon propose
speculative ‘lunar landings’ of a different sort.
They ‘choose to go to the moon’ to satirize
social and political control, or to meditate on
perception and misperception, or to wring one
last drop of romance from what was once –
and is perhaps again - an alien world.

In December 1972, Apollo 17 Commander
Eugene A Cernan departed the moon with the
words ‘we leave as we came and, God willing,
as we shall return, with peace and hope for all
mankind’. To date, our species has yet to set
foot there again. The physical lunar landings
occurred over a period of less than four years,
and were undertaken exclusively by white,
American males. Imaginative voyages to the
moon, however, have always been available
to us, and are currently our most vivid and
democratic method of experiencing it. As the
years since Apollo 17 wear on, perhaps a little
mystery has returned to our relationship with
that distant, glowing orb. It is notable that on
20 July, the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11
landing and the date of the exhibition’s official
opening, the moon will not be visible in the
London sky.

Curator: Tom Morton


Diary piece at artreview.com

Preview in The Guardian newspaper

Exhibition review in Art Review magazine

Feature in The Guardian


Aleksandra Mir (b. 1967, Poland)

First Woman on the Moon, 1999
Video, 12 mins
Courtesy the artist and greengrassi, London

Aleksandra Mir’s video records a day-long
event organised by the artist, during which
heavy machinery and manpower transformed
a Dutch beach into a lunar landscape of hills
and craters. At sunset, the workers downed
tools and a live drumbeat heralded the
arrival of three young women in silvery space
dresses, who planted an American flag in the
sands, before the landscape was flattened
out again, leaving nothing but a memory of
this short moment of transformation. In part
an affectionate, funny and kitsch take on
Robert Smithson’s film of the making of his
celebrated earthwork Spiral Jetty (1970),
First Woman on the Moon also gently points to
the very masculine history of lunar exploration.

William Hogarth (1697-1764, UK)
Some Principle Inhabitants of the Moon,
1724 (Heath edition, 1822)
Etching / Engraving
Collection of Jack Morton

A satirical fantasy presented as straight fact,
William Hogarth’s etching claims to depict the
moon’s King, Queen, and leading religious and
legal lights as observed through ‘a Telescope
brought to its Greatest Perfection’. Composed
of the instruments of their own power (coins,
gavels, and empty vestments), they are at
once menacing and oddly impotent. A sci-fi
image created before the conventions of
sci-fi imagery were established, Hogarth’s
piece demonstrates that human ponderings
on other worlds are, more often than not,
ponderings on our own.

Tom Dale (b. 1974, UK)
Ball with Wheel, 2005
Plastic, steel, rubber
Courtesy the artist

The grey orb of Tom Dale’s Ball with Wheel is a
tautological object (why attach a propulsion
device to a form that is the ne plus ultra of
propulsion?), and also a dysfunctional one
(the addition wheel actually prevents it from
rolling). In the context of Deceitful Moon, it
might be read as an image of the moon post
Apollo 11 – an ineffable sphere rendered
clunky and commonplace through its collision
with technology.

Keith Wilson (b. 1965, UK)
Moon Boot Yoga Mats, 2009
Moon Boot fabric, cardboard
Courtesy the artist

Formed from the same fabric as the Moon
Boot, a style of footwear produced by the
Italian firm Tecnica that became fashionable
in the wake of the lunar landings, Keith
Wilson’s series of rolled, piled and scattered
yoga mats suggests a convergence between
the scientific and the mystic in late 1960s
and early 1970s culture. Along with a series
of cardboard caskets (which the artist has
described as ‘eco-coffins awaiting the nine
remaining living men who have walked on the
moon’), they provide Deceitful Moon with a
sculptural and conceptual grammar

Grant Morrison & Cameron Stewart
(b.1960, Scotland, and b.1976, Canada)
Seaguy arrives on the moon
(Page from Seaguy #3), 2004
Pencil and ink on paper
Collection of Chiron Mukherjee
& Vertigo / DC Comics

Written by Grant Morrison, with art by Cameron
Stewart, the comic book series Seaguy
(2004-9) follows the adventures of its scubasuited
title character, a superhero living in a
tranquilised near-future utopia which has no
need for costumed protectors. In this original
inked page, Seaguy arrives on the moon to find
it made of bricks and populated by Jackalheaded,
Anubis-like figures. In the finished,
computer-coloured and -lettered printed page,
the hero’s speech balloon reads: ‘Looks like
science lied to us about this place big time.’

Amalia Pica (b. 1978, Argentina)
Moon Golem, 2009
Found photograph, etched glass,
mirror, plinth, lamp
Courtesy the artist and Galerie Diana Stigter,

On 1 August, 1971, the astronaut David Scott
placed the first and to date only work of art
on the moon’s surface, without the prior
knowledge of his employers at NASA. Created
by the Belgian artist Paul van Hoeydonck
(b. 1925) and entitled Fallen Astronaut, this 8cm
aluminium human figure was commissioned
by Scott as a memorial to the astronauts and
cosmonauts who died in the ‘race for space’.
In Pica’s piece, a spotlight, mirror and an etched
pane of glass conspire to mark an image of this
sculpture with a shadowy letter ‘H’ – the same
letter that, in Jewish folklore, brings inanimate
clay automatons to life when scrawled across
their foreheads.

Matthew Day Jackson & David Tompkins
(b. 1974, US, and b.1965, US)
Footprint, 2009
Sand, plastic, wood, Trinitite, steel
Courtesy the artists

Fabricated from fused Trinitite (a radioactive
glass formed on the desert floor following the
Trinity nuclear tests in New Mexico, 1945),
Footprint is a second generation cast of a
footprint made by Buzz Aldrin on the moon’s
surface. Jackson has said of the work that
‘although I believe we went to the moon,
it was nothing more than a cold war military
manoeuvre, making it as though we never
went there, but were rather stuck here on this
terra’. The piece is accompanied by a fiction
by the artist David Tompkins in the form of a
wall text, which recounts Footprint’s apparent
involvement in the faking of the Apollo 11
moon landing.

Johannes Vogl (b. 1981, Germany)
Kleiner Mond / Little Moon, 2006
Bicycle, bicycle lamp
Collection Lentos Art Museum, Linz

Johannes Vogl’s Kleiner Mond / Little Moon
employs a found object – an old fashioned
bicycle, complete with lamp – to create a
moon-like circle of light on the gallery wall.
We might read it as an inversion of the
grandeur of German Romantic paintings such
as Casper David Friederich’s Man and Woman
Contemplating the Moon (1830-35). In Vogl’s
piece, modest means are used to create a
modest moment of wonder – appropriate,
perhaps, to an age in which the natural world,
and even our planet’s largest natural satellite,
has become a demystified object of scientific

Sam Porritt (b. 1979, UK)
Going, Going, Gone, 2009
Electric cables, glue, glass lamps, ink,
plywood, survival blanket
Courtesy the artist and Brown, London

On a sloping plinth, two glowing,
anthropomorphic orbs (a sun and a moon? an
astronaut and a cosmonaut? a believer and a
sceptic?) sit side by side, staring up at a third
orb suspended from the ceiling. The lower
pair seem perturbed at this impostor into
their world, their felt-pen faces frowning as
though some delicate equilibrium has been
disturbed. Porritt’s work might be read as a
playful picture of human inflexibility in the face
of the new. A binary system has broken down,
and the certainties that went with it are, as the
sculpture’s title implies, going, going, gone.

Carey Young (b. 1970, Zambia)
Plato Contract, 2008
Framed giclée print
Courtesy the artist, Thomas Dane Gallery,
London, and Paula Cooper Gallery, New York

Carey Young’s Plato Contract embroils its
purchaser in an unusual legal agreement –
once bought, it only becomes a work of art if
it is installed on Plato, a crater on the moon.
As such, he or she must become an active
participant in the art making process for their
purchase to ‘fulfil its destiny’ – something that,
in this case, is almost impossible to achieve.
Young’s choice of location for the piece’s final
resting place is pertinent, alluding as is does to
Platonic notions of reality and illusion, and the
arbitrariness of designation.

Karen Russo (b. 1974, Israel)
Target 090313 977 (2009)
HD transferred to DVD, 13:15 mins /
mixed media
Courtesy the artist and Paradise Row, London

In Karen Russo’s film Target 090313 977,
a psychic is given a set of map co-ordinates
and asked to describe their corresponding
location using a method known as Remote
Viewing, developed by the CIA during the Cold
War. He notes a number of buildings and signs
of habitation, and it is only at the conclusion
of the Remote Viewing session that it is
revealed that his ‘target’ was the dark side
of the moon. Accompanying Russo’s film is a
diorama created by a professional sci-fi model
maker that interprets the psychic’s findings,
and echoes – oddly – the vision of the moon in
Morrison & Stewart’s Seaguy.