A Digitized Collection of Art, Poetry, and Books Will Be Permanently Installed on the Moon

A multimedia creative arts archive will head to space as part of a permanent installation on a series of unmanned rockets that will land and remain stationed on the moon, the New York Times reported on Thursday.

The Lunar Codex is a digitized collection of contemporary art, poetry, magazines, music, film, podcasts, and books. It contains the work of 30,000 artists, writers, musicians, and filmmakers from 157 countries. The semiretired Canadian physicist and author Samuel Peralta started the project.

As executive chairman of the Toronto-based media and technology company Incandence, Peralta has been contacting creatives to acquire the works and archival permissions for free inclusion in the Codex. Submissions by individual artists have also been included, with the caveat that their work must have been included in an exhibition, catalogue, or anthology.

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Divided into four time capsules, the Lunar Codex contains material copied onto digital memory cards. The lightweight analog media storage device can hold 150,000 laser-etched microscopic pages of text or photos on one 8 1/2-by-11-inch sheet.

“This is the largest, most global project to launch cultural works into space,” Peralta said in an interview. “There isn’t anything like this anywhere.”

The project is reminiscent, however, of NASA’s Golden Record, a time capsule containing audio and visual images on a metal disk, which was launched into space on the Voyager probes in 1977.

Other such endeavors include “The Moon Museum,” a tiny ceramic tile with line drawings by artists Forrest Myers, Andy Warhol, Claes Oldenburg, Robert Rauschenberg, David Novros, and John Chamberlain. The first work of art to travel to the moon, it was attached to the Apollo 12 spacecraft in 1969. Later, in 1971, an aluminum sculpture by Belgian artist Paul van Hoeydonck was left as part of the Apollo 15 mission.

More recently, contemporary artists such as Jeff Koons, Sacha Jafri, and Xu Bing have taken it upon themselves to try sending their works to space—some more successfully than others.

Unlike the Apollo missions, the Lunar Codex contains work by women. Highlights of the project include linocuts by Ukrainian printmaker Olesya Dzhurayeva, who evacuated Kyiv in April 2022; 2021 Bennett Prize winner Ayana Ross’s painting New American Gothic (2020); Alex Colville’s serigraph New Moon (1980); and archives from “The Poet and the Poem,” a poetry radio show/podcast including episodes with Rita Dove, Louise Glück, and other U.S. poets laureate.

One codex orbited the moon last year as part of NASA’s Orion mission. This fall, additional capsules are scheduled to be sent through NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services program.

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