The Lunar Codex Will Digitize the Work of 30,000 Artists, and Then Archive Them on the Moon

There may not yet be civ­i­liza­tion on the moon, but that does­n’t mean there’s no cul­ture up there. We’ve pre­vi­ous­ly fea­tured the tiny ceram­ic tile, smug­gled onto the Apol­lo 12 lunar lan­der, that bears art by the likes of Claes Old­en­burg, Robert Rauschen­berg, and Andy Warhol. “Fall­en Astro­naut, an alu­minum sculp­ture by the Bel­gian artist Paul van Hoey­don­ck, was left on the lunar sur­face by the Apol­lo 15 crew in 1971,” writes the New York Times’ J. D. Biers­dor­fer. “The Arch Mis­sion Foun­da­tion has sent Isaac Asimov’s Foun­da­tion tril­o­gy and mil­lions of Lunar Library pages into space,” and artists like Jeff Koons and Sacha Jafri are among the artists cur­rent­ly aim­ing to install their own work on the moon’s sur­face.

The Lunar Codex has grander ambi­tions, hav­ing assem­bled works from “over 30,000 artists, writ­ers, musi­cians, and film­mak­ers, from 158 coun­tries, in four time cap­sules launched to the moon.” You can browse their con­tents at the pro­jec­t’s offi­cial web site, which breaks it all down into not just eight “gal­leries” of visu­al art, but also sec­tions ded­i­cat­ed to film, tele­vi­sion, music, and poet­ry, among oth­er forms and media. There’s even a sec­tion for books and nov­els (as well as anoth­er, odd­ly, for nov­els and books), which includes a large num­ber of curi­ous titles to rep­re­sent the achieve­ments of human civ­i­liza­tion: Kamikaze Kan­ga­roos, Goofy New­fies, Don’t Taco ‘Bout Mur­der, In Bed with Her Mil­lion­aire Foe.

Also among all these books, stored on either dig­i­tal mem­o­ry cards or a nick­el-based medi­um called NanoFiche, is The Zoo at the End of the World by one Samuel Per­al­ta, who also hap­pens to be the mas­ter­mind of the Lunar Codex project. “A semi­re­tired physi­cist and author in Cana­da with a love of the arts and sci­ences,” Per­al­ta has select­ed for preser­va­tion on the moon every­thing from “prints from war-torn Ukraine” to “more than 130 issues of Poet­sArtists mag­a­zine” to images like “New Amer­i­can Goth­ic, by Ayana Ross, the win­ner of the 2021 Ben­nett Prize for women artists; Emer­ald Girl, a por­trait in Lego bricks by Pauline Aubey; and the apt­ly titled New Moon, a 1980 seri­graph by Alex Colville.”

All the work to be placed on the moon through the Lunar Codex was cre­at­ed by artists who are now active, or have been active in the past decade or two. As such, it reflects a par­tic­u­lar moment in the cul­tur­al his­to­ry of human­i­ty, con­sti­tut­ing what Per­al­ta calls “a mes­sage in the bot­tle for the future that dur­ing this time of war, pan­dem­ic and eco­nom­ic upheaval peo­ple still found time to cre­ate beau­ty.” They also found time to cre­ate pod­casts, as will be evi­denced by the inclu­sion of a quar­ter-cen­tu­ry-long archive of Grace Cav­a­lier­i’s inter­view show The Poet and the Poem, which has reached a new audi­ence in recent years through that rel­a­tive­ly new for­mat — one that, to future gen­er­a­tions of space­far­ers mak­ing a stop on the moon, will offer as good a rep­re­sen­ta­tion as any of life on Earth in the twen­ty-first cen­tu­ry.

via Metafil­ter/Smith­son­ian

Relat­ed con­tent:

Carl Sagan Sent Music & Pho­tos Into Space So That Aliens Could Under­stand Human Civ­i­liza­tion (Even After We’re Gone)

NASA Enlists Andy Warhol, Annie Lei­bovitz, Nor­man Rock­well & 350 Oth­er Artists to Visu­al­ly Doc­u­ment America’s Space Pro­gram

There’s a Tiny Art Muse­um on the Moon That Fea­tures the Art of Andy Warhol & Robert Rauschen­berg

Lau­rie Ander­son Cre­ates a Vir­tu­al Real­i­ty Instal­la­tion That Takes View­ers on an Uncon­ven­tion­al Tour of the Moon

NASA Puts Online a Big Col­lec­tion of Space Sounds, and They’re Free to Down­load and Use

Based in Seoul, Col­in Marshall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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