Exhibition Review (VR)

For You, New Lunar Settler : Jorge Mañes Rubio’s Peak of Eternal Light at Barakat Seoul

Amy Gahyun Lee | June 12, 2018

“Lunar settlement represents a perfect chance for a fresh start, a place where there are no social conventions, no nations and no religion, somewhere where these concepts will need to be rethought from scratch.” - Jorge Mañes Rubio

Jorge Mañes Rubio
solo exhibition

Peak of Eternal Light

Barakat Seoul

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Imagine you are among the first wave of lunar settlers. What would be the first thing you do upon settling the moon? Would you seek fertile land to cultivate? Or would you try to establish contact with the natives to establish trade? While your memory of Earth may be fading, your intuition reminds you that civilization emanates from some form of abundance. Perhaps you’d start by establishing a temple to offer sacrifices to the gods as Earth civilizations of the past built temples to appeal to the divine for prosperity. Let us follow suit and build a temple to implore the moon gods for their benediction of our eternal settlement.

During his residency with the Advanced Concepts Team (ACT) of the European Space Agency (ESA) in 2016, Jorge Mañes Rubio imagined a mythology for future settlers of the moon. The Moon Temple is the first edifice in Rubio’s project for space—designed both for contemplation as well as aspiration for new civilization. And the structure’s placement on the sunlit rim of the Shackleton Crater near the Moon’s south pole was accidental by no means.

The Shackleton Crater is one of the most promising locations for future settlement of the moon, along with the Cabeus Crater and the Malapert Crater—as these areas are perpetually within reach of Earth’s radio signals. Rubio chose Shackleton. Why? Here, you must listen to the artist’s reasoning, ‘Earth is perpetually visible from Malapert, while from Shackleton, it will only be seen for two weeks at a time, inspiring more independent thinking.’

The Moon Temple - Earth Oculus from the Peak of Eternal Light series, 2016, Digital pigment print, 60 x 90 cm
Courtesy of the artist, image provided by Barakat Seoul

In conjunction with the gallery’s core-mission to present ancient arts and artifacts, Jorge Mañes Rubio has transformed the Barakat Gallery in Seoul into a historical showcase of Artefacts of the Future. Through his first presentation at the gallery, Peak of Eternal Light, the artist introduced the science-fiction story of humans establishing a future civilization of moon settlers. His work strikes an exotic and translunary atmosphere within the space as featured art objects consist of the gleaming amber insulating film used in aerospace engineering and lunar regolith simulant—blurring the boundaries between fiction and reality.

Bringing together his interest in the ethnography of vanishing civilizations and forgotten places, Rubio points to the moon as an alternative landmark of the future, interpreting it with respect to the origin of human existence, beyond the context of evolutionary biology.

The embroidered blanket, Untitled #10 – Memory, an item that in Rubio’s mythology the first lunar inhabitants packed at the last minute before leaving Earth to colonize the moon, serves as a living guide for settlers, symbolically preserving the values of the people of Earth. Emblazoned on the work are symbols representative of human life on Earth—the astronaut’s favorite musical instrument, a golden crown of Indonesian origins, a branded athletic shoe, the emblem of the United Nations, Tibet’s traditional greeting gesture, and other items offering a basis for the study of Earthlings during the Lunar era. It’s always good to learn from the past, but important not to be imprisoned by it.

The Earth shown from the Moon Temple’s golden gate inspires an air of calm and purity. During the era when we inhabited the blue planet, it felt chaotic and frenzied to our sensibilities. But now that we find ourselves observing the Earth from afar we appreciate a newfound peaceful state of affairs. Mankind finally learns to strike a rational distance from its homeland by practicing an ‘earth-friendly’ doctrine that entails picking up and leaving the blue planet behind. And the Moon—as marked on an embroidered blanket—may be juxtaposed with the image of Earth posing the fundamental questions: Where are we? And what we are looking at?

Jorge Mañes Rubio (Madrid, 1984) majored in product design at the Royal College of Art, London. He has collaborated extensively with museums, galleries and art centers around the world, including the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Seoul, South Korea, Het Nieuwe Instituut in Rotterdam, Netherlands, the Design Museum in London, UK. In 2015 he was awarded the S&R Foundation Washington Award, and in 2018 he was awarded the prestigious TED Senior Fellowship. Rubio frequently gives lectures as a guest speaker for various international academic associations, and in 2016 he joined the art residency program of the European Space Agency (ESA), where he was inspired to idealize the creation of a new human civilization on a lunar settlement.

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