In a move that goes against the grain of what most consider acceptable limits for the presentation of art, London based artist Stephen Little is to push this limit even further by having his work transported to the Moon. Little is sending his art work to

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London based artist Stephen Little is sending his art work to the surface of the moon with the US based aerospace company TransOrbital, Inc. Due for launch early next year, their commercial lunar orbiter will include his work as part of its payload. Just as Armstrong left the first footprint on the surface of the moon, Little will leave the first painting.

P R E S S    R E L E A S E

First painting on the Moon

July 10th 2002

In a move that goes against the grain of what most consider acceptable limits for the presentation of art, London based artist Stephen Little is to push this limit even further by having his work transported to the Moon. Little is sending his art work to the surface of the moon with the US based aerospace company TransOrbital, Inc. Due for launch early next year, their commercial lunar orbiter ‘Trailblazer’ will include his work as part of its payload.

Until now all orbiters and landers visiting the Moon have been government-funded. It’s not that the private sector lacks the know-how to get to the Moon. "The science required is around 30 years old," says Dennis Laurie, president of TransOrbital in La Jolla, California. Laurie is excited by the opportunity of supporting Little’s project by transporting his artwork to the moon and according to Laurie, the Trailblazer craft is 80 percent complete and could be ready for launch in a few months.

Once everything is in place, the 520-kilogram orbiter will blast off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on a Russian Denepr rocket. This will carry Trailblazer into low Earth orbit, where the orbiter will separate from the launcher and fire its own booster to take it to the Moon. Four days and around 384,000 kilometres later, the craft will enter lunar orbit. After several weeks orbiting from pole to pole, Trailblazer will descend to low orbit and attempt fly-overs of significant lunar sites, including Apollo 11’s base in the Sea of Tranquillity, and the Russian rover Lunokhod 2, which was left in the Mare Serenitatis (Sea of Serenity) in August 1973 by the unmanned Luna 21 mission. Trailblazer will also take video footage of the flight from Earth orbit to the Moon, and while in polar orbit it will photograph the entire surface with a stills camera. It will also capture footage of an earthrise over the Moon’s horizon and, once in low orbit, will send back high definition colour video of surface features down to a resolution of one metre. After three months and the completion of its mission, Trailblazer will put down on the lunar surface. When it does, Little’s work, an image of an astronaut with an orange painting on one side and a single, painted orange monochrome on the other, will remain there with it.

After thirty years, and a renewed interest in our lunar neighbour by governments and private companies alike, new plans for lunar expeditions are on the way. With high expectations for our near future and new incentives for commercial space industries, we are on the edge of something quite extraordinary. Little presents this double-sided artwork as a reference to this new age and to a spirit of enquiry.

"If we are talking about space and extending ourselves through exploration, creating and surpassing new boundaries and frontiers, of extending intellectual enquiry towards this end so as to create new possibilities and ways of looking at ourselves and our place in the world, then the symbolism of the astronaut has to be one of the best – and most universal. Placing the monochrome within this ‘familiar’ framework reflects the same destinations, same ambitions and although seemingly worlds apart, shares a common sensibility, namely, that of enquiry and new ways of looking and interpreting what we see."

How strange to see a person floating in space, even stranger – art. One element informs the other within his image. Here, the astronaut and the monochrome with its varied history are contextualised in such a way that the end goal is seen to be one and the same i.e. art, life, discovery, breaking barriers and forging new ground, the foremost position constantly sought after by humanity. The artwork is contextualised within the technology that will take it to the surface of the Moon. Two seemingly unrelated creatures from different ends of the spectrum, one representing the rational logic of science, the other, the subjective and irrational, now joined at the hip in pursuit of the same agenda. The images may represent an exploration of our dreams and desires but are also symbolic of the collected oneness of our multifaceted and often unbalanced selves in the pursuit of a common goal.

Little’s work also addresses issues relating to Context, Presentation & Value within art and it seems fitting that he will create an historic moment. Just as Armstrong left the first footprint on the surface of the moon, Little will leave the first painting. He will have this podium to himself until the end of 2003 when artist Damien Hirst attempts a similar feat by having one of his works, a painted colour chart for technical calibration, sent to Mars aboard the UK’s Beagle 2 as part of the 2003 Mars Express.    

When asked about the title of his work "I love you, always, and without measure. I send this word of love to the Moon that it may shine upon you daily. I love you, always & forever, to the Moon & back…" Little states, "It’s as much to do with life and who we are as it is to do with art. When something we hold close to our heart leaves us, it’s normal to openly proclaim our love for it." He may have given it a lengthy title, but it is also going on a very long journey, and with little gravity and no oxygen, you probably couldn’t ask for a better archive…

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Stephen Little
Odyssey Project
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