Moon Bouncing Film Makers

While ‘moon bouncing’ may sound like something straight out of a futuristic SciFi world, the Earth-Moon-Earth radio communications technique that uses the moon as a surface to bounce signals sent from one point on Earth back down to another point on Earth has been reality since WWII.

It’s also the subject of the Inevitable Ether exhibition opening Friday and showing through the weekend at the NSC. Our Side of the Moon, a documentary style fiction film installation, follows the story of a brilliant young radio astronomer living beneath the Dwingeloo radio telescope in the Netherlands, and her moonbouncing pen pal, Atari, squatting in an abandoned Earth Station in Ireland.  

The characters possess a special skill: sound-to-movement synesthesia, a condition which allows them to ‘feel’ sound as muscular responses in their bodies. Crowdsourced movement improvisations which informed the film will be moonbounced live from Dwingeloo and streamed to the exhibition on Saturday November 19th from 11:00 – 13:00. Viewers can also join the mounbounce live on Zoom.

NSC Science Communications intern Baneen Talpur interviewed Emilia Tapprest and Valerie van Zuijlen, the artists in residence at NSC and Greywood Arts, about their Inevitable Ether exhibition opening on Friday, about combining science and art, and about the place of moon bouncing in the show. 

Baneen: What will the show look like?

Valerie: The exhibition in the round room under the Big Dish will be an immersive audiovisual installation consisting of a large video screening as well as a representation of the time capsule moonbounced from radio telescope Dwingeloo. Besides our project, the exhibition space features collaborative works around Morse code facilitated by artist Roisín White.

Still from Our Side of the Moon

Baneen: How do you make a scientific concept such as moon bouncing poetic and creative enough to make it into a show?

Emilia: As a short answer, if you keep on asking ‘why’ as a response to the previous answer, you soon start moving from the scientific-technical realm to more philosophical and even spiritual terrains. On the one hand, scientific inquiry can inspire these kinds of reflections. On the other hand, we can also use technical terms and phenomena, including moon bouncing, as a motif to speak about these underlying questions which have been brewing with us for a long time.

Baneen: Why is moon bouncing a focus for your show?

Emilia: Even if it’s over 80-year-old and by some definitions archaic, we find it intriguing that moon bouncing still gathers an active community of radio amateurs around the world, from all walks of life. A contact could be established between a Persian prince and a teenage girl connecting from her parents’ garage. It combines the geeky science attitude required for amateur ham radio, together with more philosophical questions to do with the moon and what lies beyond. 

Baneen: What kind of research was needed for the show?

Valerie: We worked closely with ham radio astronomer Jan van Muijlwijk, who has been working for years as a volunteer at the radio observatory in Dwingeloo, Netherlands, and has connected through the moon with over 90 different countries around the world. 

He has made it possible for us to actually moonbounce different media from sound to images and all of the transcoding in between. Jan’s knowledge has also inspired the conceptual development of the project’s storyworld. For instance, he has been specializing in low frequency noise, which links in with the hypersensitive, synesthetic condition of our main character, Diana. His experience from years of moonbouncing and ham radio definitely inspired the narrative.

Baneen: What do you want the audience to take home from the show?

Emilia: Our hope is that the audience will find personal meaning from the different artifacts and experiences presented in the showcase, particularly more ineffable feelings and questions which are on the threshold of what can be formulated on the left side of the brain. Perhaps a feeling will be kindled on the spot, or spark a reflection which comes back in a later moment of life.