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 (there were hardly any women joining the society) 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 entrepreneur Matthew Boulton, the 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, politics, science and commerce, and as well as debating and discovering, the ‘Lunatics’ also built canals and factories, named plants, gases and minerals, managed large businesses — and changed the face of England. Many of the members were also influential figures in relation to the abolitionist movement, female education and social rights.
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 critically explore topics the original society discussed and explore new ideas within the related 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, colonial history and social rights.
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 (I) was commissioned by IKON Gallery in Birmingham and Spike Island in Bristol, UK (2011). This edition is activated in Brussels at Enough Room for Space and travels throughout Europe.
LUNÄ (II) was commissioned by the 11th Shanghai Biennale (2016). This edition is part of the Power Station of Art Collection, Shanghai, CN
LUNÄ (III) was commissioned by 601 Artspace in New York, US (2022). This edition will be travelling within the US the upcoming years.
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); Coltan as Cotton, 9th Contour Biennale, Mechelen, BE (2019); Cargo in Context, Amsterdam, NL (2019); 601 Artspace, New York, US (2022); CC Strombeek, Strombeek, BE (2022).
Upcoming activations: Edith Russ Haus, Oldenburg, DE (date tbc)
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 and guests 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 Wedgwood, Thomas Percival, Joseph Black, James Hutton, Benjamin Franklin, Joseph Banks, William Herschel, Daniel Solander, John Warltire, George Fordyce, Richard Arkwright, 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.
For each LUNÄ Talk a different selection of references and artefacts are introduced by the artist to start a conversation in combination with objects and stories brought by invited guests. LUNÄ conversations are intimate, face-to-face, powerpoint-less environments. Instead of points on a screen, invited guests are requested to bring with them an object that can grip our attention, stay in our memories and that can trigger our thinking and kickstart an exciting and thought-provoking conversation. This could be an object of historic or personal value or a particular symbolism, or an image, or an equation - anything that has a particular resonance for the subject on the table that day.
Contributors for public meetings included so far: Jennifer Tucker, André Fenton, Elaine Sulivan, Musasa, Maarten Vanden Eynde, Esther De Haan, Patricia Fara, Dries Bols, Raf Custers, Jeroen Cuvelier, Zheng Li, Sammy Baloji, Femke Herregraven, Georges Senga, Karin Lurvink, Sven Beckert, Wouter Elsen, Eric Vanhaute, Remy Jungerman, Helen Elands, Alioum Moussa, Christine Chivallon, Jean Katambayi Mukendi, Shuddhabrata Sengupta, Li Bin, Juntai Shen, Lu Ding, Sun Zhengfan, Miao Qihao, Jia Qin, Zhu Dayi, Tang Fei, Liao Fei, Benny Shaffer, Tian Liu, Michael Garrett, Taede Smedes, Daniela de Paulis, Roy Smits, Jaap Beuker, Alice Smits, Enno Bregman, Peter Pels, Dirk van Delft, Dorien Zandbergen, George van Hal, Anke Bangma, Jaap van de Herik, Maarten Lamers, Fatos Ustek, 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.