I've been following Bristol based artist Luke Jerram's work since I went to his wonderful, surreal Withdrawn installation in 2015. So when I read that he would be touring a new, moon themed installation, I was very excited, and hoped that it would stop off in his home city at some point. After much anticipation, it was announced that Museum of the Moon would be open to the public at the beautiful Wills Memorial Building (part of Bristol University) over the last weekend in March. The amazing Neo Gothic architecture of the building was the perfect backdrop to the surreal sight of a mini (but still pretty large!) moon, seemingly floating above the ground of its own accord.
Museum of the Moon is a spherical sculpture of the moon, at 1:500,000 scale. It measures 7 metres in diameter and is internally lit, giving it the ghostly glow that is so familiar to any moon gazers. The surface is printed with NASA imagery of the moon's surface. Along with the moon itself, special lighting and a surround sound composition by Dan Jones create a multi layered, multi sensory installation. The idea of the installation is that it will travel to different locations and be shown in different venues, creating a different atmosphere and context each time.
I ended up visiting Museum of the Moon twice over the weekend it was on display, once at night, and once in the daytime. Each time had a slightly different feeling. When I visited at night it felt very relaxed, with people lying on the ground under the moon and gazing up at it. There was a sense of reverence, but also calm. Some people seemed to be using the opportunity to take a bit of time out, lying on the ground and scrolling on their phones, much as people would in a park on a sunny day.
When I visited in the day time there was more of a festival atmosphere, with people talking excitedly, trying to get photos of and with the moon, and walking around to get different views. This made the experience even more surreal somehow!
The moon against the backdrop of the architecture made me think of academia but also religious institutions, and buildings in fantasy stories. It made me imagine the classrooms of schools for witches, or moon temples in fantasy realms (which was also what Hedgefairy thought of when I showed her a few of these photos), or science facilities in some other galaxy, far away.
It was a strange, otherworldly, oddly emotional, but beautiful experience to visit Museum of the Moon. Just as we were about to leave I stopped to take a final photo, and as I was pressing the shutter Luke Jerram himself appeared in the middle of the crowd with a microphone and started a short talk about his inspirations and the artwork. It was the perfect end to visiting this magical installation.
You can find out more about Museum of the Moon and where it will be touring next at my-moon.org