On a cloudless night in China thousands of years ago, an old man stared at a dark patch on the moon and saw a rabbit whom he named Yutu. Yutu was grinding the Elixir of Life with a mortar and pestle for Chang-e, a princess banished to the moon for eternity with only her faithful rabbit for company.
During a curious moment in Houston’s communications with the crew of Apollo 11 on July 19, 1969, three days into the astronauts’ 238,900- mile flight to the moon, NASA’s Ronald Evans relates a version of this very tale and asks them to look for the mythical characters. “Okay,” replies Buzz Aldrin, “we’ll keep a close eye out for the bunny- girl.”
They were hours away from Neil Armstrong’s historic first step onto the moon’s surface in the Sea of Tranquility and their subsequent discovery that hopping along, or “loping,” was the best way to get around in the low gravity environment.
In Operation Moonrabbit, with my astronaut assistant filming me, I will step onto the moon wearing a pair of 3D-printed, safety-orange rabbit feet over my moon boots, in which I will replicate the hopping and loping gait of a rabbit as I explore my environment.
The audio of my exaggerated breathing will be transmitted live to the audience on Earth as they follow my progress around the landing site via the video stream from my astronaut assistant’s camera. Additional footage from a camera mounted to my helmet will be available on my return. My total cargo will weigh approximately 15kg, all of which will return with me to Earth.
I believe we must be mindful in our explorations of new environments of the impact we have on them, both materially and biologically – a serious concern as we consider colonization. As an artist, I wish to respect the innate and perfect beauty of the moon. Ideally I would leave nothing. With this minimalist aesthetic in mind, I will leave only moonrabbit tracks as a hieroglyphic tribute to the playfulness and inventiveness of humans.
Playfulness is one of our most salient characteristics and the engine of our inventiveness. It leads us from myth to hypothesis to theory. We stared at the moon and mythologized until one day we actualized, and arrived upon its surface. My performance salutes the curious and playful thinkers of the world of all ages, nationalities and disciplines.
This has been far more than three men on a mission to the Moon; more, still, than the efforts of a government and industry team; more, even, than the efforts of one nation. We feel that this stands as a symbol of the insatiable curiosity of all mankind to explore the unknown.
- Buzz Aldrin, Apollo 11 Mission, July 1969