THE 8TH CONTINENT
curated by by Ylinka Barotto
September 24, 2021 – August 27, 2022
Brochstein Pavillion - Rice University - Houston, TX
The 8th Continent, Rice’s site-specific commission, is the outcome of the Tossin’s interest in the privatization of space exploration in the 21st Century and the development of a space extraction industry. Working closely with Rice University’s Space Institute and Houston’s Lunar and Planetary Institute, Tossin sourced NASA images of the Moon made to guide future exploration of its poles. The permanently shadowed craters concentrated there are suspected to harbor substantial deposits of water ice, which can be mined and used in the production of rocket fuel. Tossin’s triptych repurposes these images in a series of tapestries woven with metallic thread, harking back to the gilt and silk threaded tapestries displayed by medieval and Renaissance rulers to demonstrate their wealth and power.
The left panel features Shackelton Crater, which lies at the lunar south pole. Containing one of the Moon’s largest deposits of water ice while its rim is exposed to near continual sunlight, it is slated to become the first mining facility on the Moon as well as a base for deep space scientific exploration. At center, the Moon’s north and south poles are shown side by side, highlighting permanently shadowed craters likely to harbor water ice: the gold of the future. A more sweeping view toward the southern lunar pole appears on the right, complete with gibbous Earthrise—recalling astronaut William Anders’ iconic photograph of the Earth rising above the lunar surface, taken during the Apollo 8 mission in December, 1968.
The work signals additional historical milestones that impact the colonization of the moon. The 1979 Moon Agreement, adopted by the UN General Assembly to reaffirm the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, states that the environment of the Moon and other celestial bodies “should not be disrupted,” and declares their natural resources the “common heritage of mankind”—forbidding individual nations from claiming mineral or water rights on the Moon. However, a 2015 U.S. law skirts this restriction, giving private companies the right to mine the Moon and other outer space territories. Tossin’s work tracks this paradigm shift—from environmental preservation to industrial exploitation—against the horizon of Earth’s dwindling resources, and considers how frontier mythologies prepare the way, charting the relentless course from discovery to development and extraction.
Mapmaking has long been used as a means to establish and project national sovereignty, and NASA’s mapping of lunar resources is no exception. Other nations, including China and Russia, are drafting claims of their own. The 8th Continent focuses in on this latest cartographic gambit, resolving the deep histories and far-reaching consequences of 21st century nation-states expanding their territorial dominion in space.