'Cheating The Moon', nominated for the Prix Elysée 2014
One of the myths surrounding the Apollo Moon Landings is their supposed construction. That the giant leap for mankind was a well-polished hoax on the back of NASA and other organisations is a familiar line: one that permeates conspiracy theories across the planet. So perhaps it is not so strange that within any context of 'authentic' evidence, there is a stand-off with a counter-narrative of a spurious nature. Acknowledging this, my project, Cheating the Moon, takes the stolen and missing Goodwill Moon Rocks of the Apollo 11 and 17 missions as its point of departure. Of the 270 moon rocks that were given to the nations of the world by the Nixon administration shortly after the expeditions, approximately 180 are currently unaccounted for. Within those that remain at large, beyond the researchers and hobbyists that have tracked down some of the specimens, a culture of emergent forgery and theft has high-jacked proceedings. In 1998 an undercover federal law enforcement operation, code named Operation Lunar Eclipse, was created to identify and arrest individuals selling bogus moon rocks and dust.
Under the auspices of such an undercover investigation,
my project presents an archive of moon rock findings that refers to both
factual and fictitious sources, where discerning one from the other becomes
a complex proposition. In parallel with the corruption that has pervaded
the rocks' distribution, the slippery nature of truth is given a wide
berth in the various locations and contexts that make up this series,
some of which are outlined here.
A typewriter containing a ransom note was seized by the
FBI in the basement of a furniture warehouse in Midland, Texas in June
1981, following a tip off from warehouse cleaner, Jimmie Burnham. Burnham
had become increasingly suspicious of co-worker, Carl Putman, who was
seen returning to the premises at unsociable hours on several occasions.
Witnessing this from an adjacent bar upon completing his night shift,
Burnham contacted the local police. Having already been debriefed by senior
investigators about a wave of intimidating calls and letters that had
targeted the staff of a local science museum in reference to a supposed
moon rock theft, Midland Police decided to approach the FBI, who carried
out a strategic raid two days later. Various objects were removed from
the premises including a cassette recorder, a dictaphone, a semi-automatic
pistol as well as the typewriter itself. Putman, caught in the act, was
sentenced to twelve years for extortion, possession of firearms and blackmail
with intent to harm.