Aleksandra Mir First Woman on the Moon 1999 Tate Modern collection displays

Aleksandra Mir
First Woman on the Moon 1999
© Aleksandra Mir

Aleksandra Mir’s makeshift ‘moon landing’ was staged on a Dutch beach in a farcical attempt to infiltrate the male-dominated history of space travel.

Invited to produce a public artwork in Holland, Mir decided to organise a performance celebrating the thirtieth anniversary of the moon landing. Following President Kennedy’s pledge to send men to the moon ‘in the decade of the Sixties’, she embarked on a mission to put a woman on the moon before the end of the millennium – a goal which could only be realised as make-believe.

On 28 August 1999 Mir modelled a moonscape out of sand dunes with the help of local workers. At sunset she planted the American flag on the highest peak, and invited members of the public to climb the fake lunar craters and join the celebrations. The project’s scale recalls the monumental ambitions of 1960s Land Art, though the emphasis here is on the involvement of the local community and the media.

First Woman on the Moon looks back at the space race as a chauvinist power play, showing how the meaning of any event can be manipulated through media representation. The video mixes knowingly ‘cheap’ footage of the event with clips aired by Dutch TV stations, and the soundtrack features original NASA communications and excerpts from Kennedy’s 1961 speech. Mir also sent the video to figures such as astronaut Neil Armstrong and science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke, whose replies are reproduced here.

My work is often described as ‘feminist’’ Mir has said, ‘but … the content of my projects almost always pulls in the opposite direction, showing frailty, vulnerability and pathetic incompetence towards the status quo … I guess ambivalence is always part of a good artwork.

Aleksandra Mir was born in 1967 in Lubin, Poland. She is a citizen of Sweden and USA and currently lives in London.

Curated by Stuart Comer and Valentina Ravaglia.