The Moon Temple, from the Peak of Eternal Light series, 2017. Digital pigment print, 150x100cm & 90x60cm, edition of 6 + 2AP
Aerial view of the Moon Temple and its location on the rim of the Shackleton Crater. 

 

Peak of Eternal Light (Moon Temple)
Peak of Eternal Light: specific points on the polar regions of the Moon bathed in continuous sunlight.

‘Peak of Eternal Light’ takes us on a hypothetical archaeological journey to the Moon. The project features a monumental temple on the South Pole of the Moon and a series of sacred objects and sculptures, establishing an enigmatic material culture yet to be discovered. Masks, offering vessels and other forms of precious regalia invite us to imagine profound lunar rituals, acknowledging the ancestral spiritual dimension embedded within the cosmos.

When appointed Artist in Residence at the Advanced Concepts Team of the European Space Agency ESA, Jorge Mañes Rubio chose to explore an anthropological approach when addressing the future human presence on the Moon. Instead of seeing it just as a potential site for groundbreaking scientific research, class-privileged tourism or the lucrative exploitation of extraterrestrial natural resources, Mañes Rubio looks at the Moon as sacred ground. Transporting us to this numinous, nearly unspoiled territory, the artist recalls the images and symbols humanity needs to reconnect with a higher purpose.

In ‘Peak of Eternal Light’ we’re lifted to a ‘new world’ where ancient ways-of-knowing are reimagined, remaining forever indispensable. His mission does not begin by planting a flag or building a permanent colony on the Moon —both symbols of Western colonialism— but by honouring and protecting the ancestral connection we share with our closest celestial neighbour. Challenging the exploitative and colonial patterns taken for granted in space exploration, the artist reflects on how Western knowledge is always perceived as superior over other forms of knowledge, how triumphal and dominant cultures have historically neglected the history of others. In his vision, rockets and spaceships are replaced by sacred buildings, complex rituals and magnificent artefacts carefully crafted with Moon dust and aerospace materials left behind on the surface of the Moon. Openly inspired by our past, these works attempt to recognize the infinity of traditions and wisdom available on Earth, projecting a pluriverse where cultural exchange happens in a relationship of equality.

Mañes Rubio seems to have used his privileged position inside the European Space Agency to purposely displace himself from current plans around the colonisation of celestial bodies —plans driven today by the world’s wealthiest, most powerful corporations. Looking at Mañes Rubio’s work is disconcerting to say the least. While we’re invited to discover evidence that sustain a prosperous human presence on the Moon, these buildings and objects appear to us as relics from a bygone past, implying the inescapable collapse of their source community. Hence the more sustainable, spiritual —perhaps even utopian— narrative the artist has envisioned for our interplanetary future remains in a liminal estate, full of hope and helpless at the same time. It’s precisely in this contradiction that his work becomes most valuable, confident, even implacable, tirelessly looking for the traces that make us human regardless of space and time.

“While visionary concepts such as the Moon Village help us to rethink potential futures and our actions to realise them, art allows us to put them into perspective, and recall their human elements. Jorge has made a beautiful bridge between ethnography and space exploration, by imagining future empirical evidence from a ‘Moon Village culture’.”
Leopold Summerer, head of the Advanced Concepts Team, European Space Agency

“I have no idea if the Moon Temple is utopian or not – not more than if it was utopian, centuries ago to make the Egyptian pyramids, the European Cathedrals, the temples all around the planet or to decide that some mountains and caves were sacred places. Somehow, human spirituality needs large symbols.”
Laurent Pambaguian, Structures, Mechanisms and Materials Division at the European Space Agency

 

The Shackleton Crater, from the Peak of Eternal Light series, 2017. Digital pigment print, 150x100cm & 90x60cm, edition of 6 + 2AP 
The spectacular 4.2km deep and 21km wide Shackleton Crater located on the South Pole of the Moon.

The Moon Temple will be located on the rim of the Shackleton, a gigantic impact crater situated right on the south pole of the Moon. With a diameter of 21km and more than 4200m deep, this imposing location is a potential candidate for a future outpost on the Moon due to its unique lighting conditions. While some of its peaks receive almost continuous sunlight, its interior (one of the coldest and darkest places in the Solar System) may have captured water ice, key for a self-sustainable lunar settlement.

 

The Moon Temple (approaching), from the Peak of Eternal Light series, 2017. Digital pigment print, 150x100cm & 90x60cm, edition of 6 + 2AP 

The Moon Temple could serve social, cultural and spiritual purposes and will be built using sintered lunar regolith. Such material and technology will most likely create ‘soft’ structures, resembling the way traditional adobe architecture has been used on our planet for many centuries, again pointing the artist in the direction of early civilisations. The design and visualisation has been created in close collaboration with DITISHOE, inspired by the complex celestial mechanics that operate on the south pole of the Moon and by a great number of architectural styles and monumental buildings, from pre-Columbian temples or Sudanese adobe architecture to Rome’s Pantheon and Turrell’s Roden Crater, celebrating our rich and diverse cultural heritage. Most importantly, Mañes Rubio was inspired by Étienne-Louis de Boullée and Claude Nicolas Ledoux’s utopian architecture, too massive to ever be built but nevertheless changing the way we understand architecture forever. With 1/6 of Earth’s gravity, what might seem utopian here on Earth could someday be possible to achieve on the Moon. Using universal languages such as science, art and architecture, the Moon Temple encourages us to look at the future of space exploration with a more human, peaceful and embracing perspective.

 

The Moon Temple (entrance), from the Peak of Eternal Light series, 2017. Digital pigment print, 150x100cm & 90x60cm, edition of 6 + 2AP 

 

The Moon Temple (interior), from the Peak of Eternal Light series, 2017. Digital pigment print, 150x100cm & 90x60cm, edition of 6 + 2AP 
Through the main 10m wide central oculus, a lunar liquid mirror telescope gazes into the oldest and most distant objects in the universe. On the left, a secondary oculus allows, when possible, seeing planet Earth rising up on the horizon (Earth rises and stays on the horizon for about 14 Earth days, setting and remaining hidden below horizon for another 14 Earth days). The temple has a communal forum with several levels to be used for cultural and ritual activities. Three horizontal cuts on the upper side of the dome allow natural light to illuminate the temple.

 

The Moon Temple (Earth Oculus), from the Peak of Eternal Light series, 2017. Digital pigment print, 150x100cm & 90x60cm, edition of 6 + 2AP  
View of planet Earth from inside the Moon Temple 

 

Section of the Moon Temple.

 

The Moon Temple, from the Peak of Eternal Light series, 2017. 21x30cm. Laser print on Metallic Super Gold paper. Edition of 50.

 

The Moon Temple, from the Peak of Eternal Light series, 2017. 21x30cm. Laser print on Metallic Super Gold paper. Edition of 50.

 

Photos: Sanja Marusic for See All This magazine.