Aleksandra Mir

All The World...

Frieze, #98, London, April 2006
By Nancy Spector

... When Aleksandra Mir staged her moon landing on a beach in the Netherlands in 1999, she was acutely aware of the role of the media can play in disseminating and preserving an otherwise ephemeral event. The performative aspect of her First Woman on the Moon project thus extended well beyond the actual happening to include an aggressive public relations campaign, high-profile corporate sponsorship, extensive news coverage and a continued presence on the Internet through the artist's elaborately detailed website. On the very first day of the enterprise, for instance, Mir spent her entire project budget on an advert in Artforum to announce the news of her pending venture. Timed to coincide with the 30th anniversary of the first lunar landing - as a feminist corrective to one of the century's leading scientific accomplishments - the performance-cum-earthwork dared to present itself as something 'real'. The fact that Mir was able to secure support from Hasselblad, the Swedish camera company that supplied NASA with photographic equipment for the Apollo 11 flight, shows how willing some parties were to buy into the fiction. For Hasselblad the association with the moon - whether the landing was fabricated or not - sustained their much publicized link to space exploration. For Mir, who sported the same 35mm panoramic camera worn by Neil Armstrong, Hasselblad's product placement provided the narrative she was weaving with a veneer of authenticity. The event itself, which was documented by numerous Dutch television stations and newspapers, took place over the course of one day. A swath of beach was transformed into a lunar landscape; children frolicked in the craters, which eventually turned into tidal pools; drummers provided background music; and, as the sun set, Mir planted an American flag on the highest hill, proclaiming herself the first woman on the moon. After the ceremony, the landscape was leveled, erasing all physical evidence of the experience, save Mir claims, for 'the memories and a story to tell future generations'.
The story of Mir's lunar landing continues to resonate in increasingly wide cultural circles seven years after its occurrence, from a cameo appearance on Showtime's lesbian TV drama The L-World to its appropriation by conspiracy theorists in ongoing debates about the veracity of the real Apollo 11 mission. For Mir such quotations are where the essence of her project really lies. Like that of Alÿs and Huygue, her work exists in time rather than in space; she sets things in motion, and the results must then be encountered, interpreted and retold by the audience in order to have any meaning as art. In a recent project for the Norwegian port city of Narvik, for instance, Mir has arranged that the next 1,000 babies born in this decreasingly populated town will be commemorated by a permanent Hollywood star on a specially constructed boardwalk. Given the current birth rate, it may take up to seven years to complete this public art work, in a sense, should never end, in that each star inaugurates a new life and a new narrative to come. ...