LUNÄ is based on the Lunar Society of Birmingham, which was formed from a group of amateur experimenters, tradesmen and artisans who met and made friends in the Midlands from 1765 till 1813. The original Lunar men gathered together for lively dinner conversations, the journey back from their Birmingham meeting place lit by the full moon. Members included the larger than life Erasmus Darwin, the flamboyant entrepreneur Matthew Boulton, the brilliantly perceptive engineer James Watt whose inventions harnessed the power of steam, the radical polymath Joseph Priestley who, among his wide-ranging achievements discovered oxygen, and the innovative potter and social reformer Josiah Wedgwood. Their debates brought together philosophy, arts, science and commerce, and as well as debating and discovering, the ‘Lunarticks’ also built canals and factories, launched balloons, named plants, gases and minerals, managed world-class businesses — and changed the face of England.
Three centuries later, LUNÄ revisits this moment of historical significance. A produced facsimile of the original table where Lunar Men met, provides a context to speculate and expand on the possible topics the original society might have discussed and explore new ideas within these fields. Since January 2011 the table is used in different locations always around full moon for an ongoing series of critical discussions updating topics that occupied the Lunar Men as new scientific and industrial developments, but also art, education and social rights. Various topics that have been discussed are for example amongst others environmental issues, evolution, experimental education, philosophy, deep time, existential risks, abolitionism, colonial histories, human rights, mathematical modelling, neuroscience, cognitive computing, geology, astronomy, cosmology, quantum physics.
LUNÄ collapses the optimistically progressive value systems that were enthusiastically promoted during the Enlightenment into the mass production and globalised retail environment that can be seen as their legacy today. LUNÄ is a replica of the Lunar table located in the Soho House Museum in Birmingham combined with a set of eight IKEA chairs.
LUNÄ has been presented and activated at: IKON Gallery in Birmingham, UK (2011); Spike Island in Bristol, UK (2011); NiMK in Amsterdam, NL (2011-2012); Forum Stadtpark in Graz, AT (2012); Onomatopee in Eindhoven, NL (2012); Fig. 2, ICA (Institute of Contemporary Arts), London, UK (2015); Museum Boerhaave, Leiden, NL (2015); Drents Museum, Assen, NL (2016); ASTRON (Dutch Institute for Radio Astronomy), Dwingeloo, NL (2016); The 11th Shanghai Biennial, Shanghai, CN (2016 - 2017); Performatik17, Performance Art Biennial, Brussels, BE (2017); BOZAR, Brussels, BE (2017), 9th Contour Biennale, Mechelen, BE (coming up in 2019)
Invited guests for public meetings included so far: Karin Lurvink, Patricia Fara, Sven Beckert, Helen Elands, Christine Chivallon, Alioum Moussa, Jean Katambayi, Shuddhabrata Sengupta, Li Bin, Juntai Shen, Lu Ding, Sun Zhengfan, Miao Qihao, Jia Qin, Zhu Dayi, Tang Fei, Liao Fei, Benny Shaffer, Michael Garret, Taede Smedes, Daniela de Paulis, Roy Smits, Jaap Beuker, Alice Smits, Enno Bregman, Peter Pels, Dirk van Delft, Dorien Zandbergen, George van Hal, Jaap van de Herik, Maarten Lamers, Cathy Haynes, Stephen Boyd Davis, Jay Griffiths, Maarten Speekenbrink, Magda Osman, Jamie Ward, Ramon Amaro, Emily Penn, Philip Sheldrake, Mark Fisher, Caroline Edwards, Owen Cotton-Barrat, Murray Shanahan, Rebecca Bligh, Erwin Fiala, Ulrich Hohenester, Mary Margaret Rinebold, Richard Sheldon, Malcolm Dick, James H Andrew, Deirdre Kelly, Chris Ramsden, Rex Harris, Clive Dutton, Tony Harvey, Ruth Reed, David Tittle, Felicity Allen, Nancy Evans, Colin Gale, Kate Iles, Steve Bell, Tom Freshwater, Paul Wells and many others.
Parallel to the public events, LUNÄ is since 2014 located at my home and head quarter of the co-founded artist initiative Enough Room for Space in Brussels attracting a wide range of artists, curators and academics, driven by the same lunar impulse to raise hard questions and consider radically different ideas as to what the future might hold.
See for an archive of the LUNÄ Talks: Enough Room for Space
The Lunar Society’s members have been called the fathers of the Industrial Revolution. The importance of this particular Society stems from its pioneering work in experimental chemistry, physics, engineering, and medicine, combined with leadership in manufacturing and commerce, and with political and social ideals. Its members were brilliant representatives of the informal scientific web which cut across class, blending the inherited skills of craftsmen with the theoretical advances of scholars, a key factor in Britain's leap ahead of the rest of Europe. – Jenny Uglow (The Lunar Men - the friends who made the future)
Original Lunar Members included: Matthew Boulton, Erasmus Darwin, Thomas Day, Richard Lovell Edgeworth, Samuel Galton, James Keir, Joseph Priestley, William Small, Jonathan Stokes, James Watt, Josiah Wedgwood, John Whitehurst and William Withering. Guests included: Richard Kirwan, John Smeaton, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Henry Moyes, John Michell, Pieter Camper, R. E. Raspe, John Baskerville, Thomas Beddoes, John Wyatt, William Thomson, Cyril V. Jackson, Jean-André Deluc, John Wilkinson, John Ash, Samuel More, Robert Bage, James Brindley, Ralph Griffiths, John Roebuck, Thomas Percival, Joseph Black, James Hutton, Benjamin Franklin, Joseph Banks, William Herschel, Daniel Solander, John Warltire, George Fordyce, Alexander Blair, Samuel Parr, Louis Joseph d'Albert d'Ailly, the seventh Duke of Chaulnes, Barthélemy Faujas de Saint-Fond, Grossart de Virly, Johann Gottling, Joseph Wright.
LUNÄ was originally commissioned by IKON Gallery in Birmingham and Spike Island in Bristol, UK