Celestial body: so near yet so far

Erica Seccombe, 2019, anaglyphic moving image, 3min duration with audio (viewed with red cyan glasses) Visualised and animated in Drishti by Erica Seccombe.

Thank you ;

  • to my companions that joined this journey to reach the moon, Tania Zora, The National Archives of Australia, Dr Ashley Latimer, CAM, Dr Levi Beeching, Prof Tim Senden. ANU CT Lab, NCI. And to my fellow traveler’s who shared the failed mission… and never returned.

Exhibited in

  • Promised the Moon, curated by Dr Ursula K Frederick, an ARC Discovery Early Career Researcher Award Fellow at the School of Archaeology & Anthropology and School of Art & Design. SOAD Gallery, 20 June - 27 July 2019. See website for program and exhibiting artists; http://soad.cass.anu.edu.au/events/promised-moon-exhibition

Yes, the Moon was so strong that she pulled you up; you realised this the moment you passed from one to the other: you had to swing up abruptly, with a kind of somersault, grabbing the scales, throwing your legs over your head, until your feet were on the Moon’s surface.

- Italo Calvino, ‘The distance of the moon’, Cosmicomics (1965)

Based on George Darwin’s 1898 theory that the Earth and Moon were once a single body and were separated by centrifugal forces, Italo Calvino imagines a time when the moon was in such close proximity to Earth it could be touched as it passed by. In this story fact and fiction are interwoven through the exploration of deep time, but it is also interesting to reflect that it was written at the time the American technological race to the Moon was in full development. Until the NASA landing in 1969, our celestial companion which can sometimes appear so close, had been far beyond our physical grasp.

Erica Seccombe, Celestial body: so near yet so far, 2019, 3min (looped) singe channel anaglyphic projection, red cyan glasses, silver frame, installed in Promised the Moon, ANU school of Art & Design, 2019.

Erica Seccombe, Celestial body: so near yet so far, 2019, 3min (looped) singe channel anaglyphic projection, red cyan glasses, silver frame, installed in Promised the Moon, ANU school of Art & Design, 2019.

Apollo 11 brought back the first geologic samples from the Moon to Earth, collecting 22 kilograms of material. Two main types of rocks, basalts and breccias, were found at the landing site and proved to contain no water, nor provide any evidence of living organisms. However, the stable-isotope ratios of lunar and terrestrial rock are identical, implying a common origin. This discovery further supports the favoured scientific hypothesis of the giant impact which suggests that the moon was formed from the debris created from a major collision between Earth and an astronomical body, possibly the size of Mars approximately 4.5 billion years ago.

In honour of the first Moon landing, my work Celestial body: so near yet so far, plays on the concept of this common origin of luna and terrestrial mantel rock. Distorting proximity, I have visualised and animated a volumetric sample of volcanic basalt only .5 mm in diameter to appear like the Moon. Tipping my hat to all things c1960s sci-fi, I have also rendered it as an anaglyphic (red/cyan) moving image that appears in 3D when viewed through coloured glasses. Originally I intended to Micro-CT-scan an actual luna sample for this exhibition, and although I got very close to achieving this I was chasing the impossible. This led me to consider a different kind of experience that challenges our perceptions between near and far, micro and the macro and ultimately celebrates the power of the human imagination.