China Aims for the Moon with a Little Help from Ai Weiwei

Ai Weiwei

The Chinese government and Chinese contemporary artist and activist, Ai Weiwei have had their differences.  Ai Weiwei has been one of China’s most outspoken critics, continuing to challenge its human rights violations, exposing corruption by the government through “investigative” public art works and his affinity for channeling support through Twitter.  After being released from a 2 year prison sentence, Ai Weiwei remains prisoner of his own country – his passport being confiscated preventing him from leaving China.

Ironically, or perhaps with the greatest intention (at least on the part of Weiwei), the two have more in common these days…at least when it comes to a fascination with the Moon.

Earlier in December, China launched the Yutu (“Jade Rabbit”) Rover and it landed safely on the Moon on December 14th.  This marks the first lunar landing for China and counts them as the third country to ever launch a vehicle onto the moon’s surface.  It’s exciting stuff for China and the world to watch.  While the NASA program continues to explore the Red Planet, China has set its sites on the Moon for future exploitation.

Ai Weiwei’s Moon Mission

Meanwhile down on Earth, artist Ai Weiwei has launched his own lunar mission along with Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson.  It has more to do with connecting Earthlings though.  Simply called Moonthe two artists invite anyone anywhere in the world to make their own mark on a simulated lunar surface.  The concept is simple – by creating an account you can then access the moon-like orb image and begin to make marks of any kind on it.  Without an account you can still view the marks made by others.  By clicking on the mark or drawing you can zoom in to see information from that person – usually just an alias and no more.  The website offers the best explanation of this artistic mission, “The instant a touch is made, things are set in motion. Make a drawing to reach out and be touched. Drawing together we are drawn together. “

Ai Weiwei

Image taken from Moon Project website

It’s a simple but timely concept considering recent events but who’s to say if it has anything to do with the Yutu Rover mission.  Perhaps in it’s own subtle way the Moon Project seeks to remind us that the exploration of other cosmic surfaces is often more important to a government than the humane treatment of it’s own people. That proving ourselves as a rival in space, somehow eclipses the need for real meaningful contact between people on this planet.  In any case, it’s a small gesture and also a reminder that if a mark can be left eternally on the moon’s cratered and windless surface, so, perhaps, can a mark be left here on Earth – or at least a virtual mark on a cyber Moon.