How To Wave A Flag In A Vacuum

2006



2 channel video installation, sound, 16mm film (continuous loop)
Varialble Size Installation

In “How to Wave a Flag in a Vacuum” I examine the first moon landing.
In January of 1969 NASA appointed the Committee on Symbolic Activities for the First Lunar Landing (CSAFLL). One of the important tasks of the committee was to consider the political implications and practical challenges of planting a flag on the moon.

The moon has been poeticized and symbolized throughout the world over millenia. In its unreachable distance, it was an empty symbol upon which all unfulfilled desires could be projected, the perfect masculine fantasy. In Carl Jung’s schema of Archetypes the moon was the mother and the sun the father. The earth as son, therefore shared an Oedipal relation to the moon.

I am interested in the point at which this symbolized space is ruptured by the actual fulfillment of the Oedipal desire – the penetration of the moon with a flag.

While this gesture problemetizes the symbolic meaning of the moon, the absence of an atmosphere on the moon ensures that any flag planted on its surface would hang limp. A limp flag serves no function and the CSAFLL had designed a horizontal support to hold up the flag so that it seemed to wave, at least in still images of the event. This propped-up motionless flag contradicts its very etymology. “Flag” is derived from the Old Norse Flakka which means “to flicker or flutter.” Thus, the symbolic meaning of planting a flag on the moon, let alone an American flag, is problematized by its very structure.

Two cameras were taken on the First Lunar Mission, a 70mm Hasselblad still camera and a 16mm film camera. In one part of this inatallation I have shot 16mm footage of a still image of the US flag planted on the moon. When projected back as a continuous loop, the hum of the projector and the Flicker of the film attempt in a futile way to return the etymological meaning to the gesture of planting a flag, while simultaneously emptying this (empty) gesture by repeating it ad-infinitum.