Aleksandra Mir

First Woman on the Moon

Frieze, #50, London, Jan 2000
By Lars Bang Larsen

First Woman on The Moon
28 Aug 1999
Casco Projcets on location in Wijk aan Zee, Nieuwekade 213-215, Utrecht - The Netherlands

'I believe we should go to the moon. I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal before this century is out, of landing woman on the moon and returning her safely to earth'. In a setting so unreal it begged from a spectacle, justice was done to female space travel on a stretch of sand beneath the bluest August sky on the Dutch Riviera where Aleksandra Mir performed First Woman on the Moon. To the east, the backdrop of huffing and puffing steel works looked Blade runner-esque enough to seem futuristic; to the south, an occasional super tanker sailed towards Amsterdam.

An event which satisfied Mankind's giant leaps with a frivolous alliance between print and electronic media, First Woman on the Moon allowed not much to happen in a sweet and well orchestrated manner. Heavy machinery from the steel plant transformed the beach into a lunar landscape of craters and wheel tracks; a piece of land art whose sandcastle existed only for the day. Together with fellow 'astronettes', Mir-no pun about the space station intended-paraded along the sand followed by sunbathers, a small art crowd, camera crews and photographers. Toward the evening, the surreal landing ceremony was enacted: while a local band in beads and hand dyed cloaks fired it up on the bongos, Mir ascended a crater in her space costume and planted a Stars and Stripes among naked children playing in the sand. Ten minutes after the ceremony, the lunar landscape was erased by the bulldozers, leaving nothing behind of the event except its memory.

Mir's take on an historic event assumed a similar temporal structure to festivals-in the sense that it is in their nature to repeat themselves. The artist's staging of the eighth moon landing—a historical simulacrum in high spirits during a day at the beach-was a celebration of humanity celebrating itself. According to lunar conspiracy theories, the moon landing never took place. The arguments are pretty convincing—maybe NASA didn't do a good enough job in their highly secured sound studio on July 20 1969. Who is the third astronaut visibly reflected in a visor when there were only supposed to be two of them on the moons surface? How to explain the unaccountable footprint you can see directly under the stationary lunar landing module?

The pop accessibility of the First Woman on the Moon was a dynamic affirmation of female presence in public and historic spheres which revolved around warped treatments of cultural orthodoxies. On the surface, it was informed by a fuck-what you-learned-in-school, cartoony humour. But it was also a performance ripe for a feminist reading, one that might examine the event's popular cultural appeal and its methods of deconstruction. This was made evident in the way it made connections between random signs, castles in the sand and the fragile and funky, non-acting of the 'astronettes' among the brutal machinery of the landscape (think Thelma and Louise-driving their blue convertible among huge phallic trucks). Feminism like this, at once camp and subtle, is an integral part of upping the ante in 'liberal' cultures where gender issues are supposedly over and done with, but which are, in reality, unresolved.

One important lesson taught by First Woman on the Moon: use your imagination, celebrate regularly. Make world history.