Off the Wall: Rice University Public Art Commission
The 8th Continent by Clarissa Tossin
Jacquard tapestries on digital loom with metallic thread
Opening: Friday September 24 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
The 8th Continent, Rice’s site-specific commission, is the result of the artist’s interest in the Moon Accord, adopted by the United Nations in 1979, which states that the environments of the Moon and other celestial bodies “must not be disturbed” and declare their natural resources the “common heritage of mankind”, discouraging nations from making individual claims. A 2015 U.S. law circumvents this restriction, however, giving private companies the right to exploit the Moon and other outer space territories, and other countries, including China, are drafting their own claims.
Tossin’s work reuses images of the Moon taken by NASA to identify large deposits of ice, which can potentially be mined and used in the production of rocket fuel. A nod to medieval and Renaissance tapestries intended to demonstrate the wealth and power of the colonizing countries, Tossin rendered these lunar images in the form of textiles interwoven with metallic threads. The resulting triptych reframes humanity’s desire to explore the Moon in the shadow of colonial conquest and resource extraction.
The left panel features Shackleton Crater, which is slated to become America’s first lunar mining facility. In the center, the Moon’s north and south poles are displayed side by side, highlighting permanently shaded craters that are likely to contain ice deposits that will help allow deep space exploration. To the right, a panoramic view of the South Pole appears with Earth in a distance, reminiscent of the iconic photograph taken by astronaut William Anders, titled Earthrise, during the 1968 Apollo 8 mission. environment to industrial exploitation of Earth’s dwindling resources, and examines how frontier mythologies rationalize discovery and subsequent stages of development and extraction.
Clarissa Tossin thanks Dr David Alexander, Rice Space Institute, and Dr David A. Kring, Lunar and Planetary Institute, who generously offered their advice for this project.
Off the Wall: Clarissa Tossin is organized by Ylinka Barotto, Associate Curator, Moody Center for the Arts.