Aleksandra Mir

Top Secret

REYKJAVIK—The summer of 2000 I was invited to show the documentation of First Woman on the Moon at the Nordic House in Reykjavik, as part of ‘FLAKK, or that extraordinary sensation of being abroad, even when at home’, curated by Andrea Kroksnes and Per Gunnar Tverbakk. In relation to this idea of geographic displacement I started looking for ways in which to re-connect the moon landing with Iceland. On NASA's web site, I had come across several entries that referred to “geological fieldtrips” in the Icelandic interior by astronauts in training. These apparent rehearsals for the forthcoming space voyage at the end of the '60s occurred in Iceland’s landscape of barren lava - the most similar geography on earth to that of the moon

But as I started to inquire locally about NASA’s fieldtrips, I hit a brick wall. Nobody wanted to speak to me about them, and searches in the Icelandic press archives simply referred to “Top Secret Missions”. I was told that no images were ever published of these events, despite the fact that the local tourist industry promotes itself with the slogan: “Why go to the moon when you can come to Iceland?” A severe case of self-censorship, or fruitful mythology in the making? Who knows. But my requests to the NASA archives were courteously and swiftly responded to. Twelve aged original photographs showed up in my mailbox after one routine research call, their appearance as stunningly casual today as the astronauts on location in Iceland were then. The photos identified an Icelandic guide, geologist Gudmundur E. Sigvaldason, who later was to become the director of the Volcanic Institute and now lived in retirement in Iceland. We tracked him down

Apart from the screening of my tape, the staging of a commemorative event seemed imperative. So together with the Icelandic Love Corporation, we planned a one night performance event, 'TOP SECRET' at the performance space Kaffibarinn, where the Love Corporation would perform, geologist Gudmundur E. Sigvaldason would step forward to tell his story and the NASA pictures would be unveiled for the first time to the nation. The images had already caused a stir, as one was being published in Iceland Air magazine, and the anticipation to see the rest was very high.

Due to a series of technical difficulties however, and because the director of Kaffibarinn got unreasonably drunk and nervously took over my role as hostess, the event turned into a disaster and disintegrated halfway through the evening. We managed to open with a performance by the Love Corporation and the screening of my tape, but then everything else broke down and ended in disarray. The pictures were never shown. They were eventually published in BIG magazine’s Iceland Issue (#35) and Mr. Sigvaldason was interviewed on Icelandic radio by producer John Hallur, who had also been invited to perform a song about space travel that night. Afterwards, many more people stepped forward and shared their stories about their meetings with the astronauts. In retrospect, this was a successful, if unusual evening, commemorating Iceland’s role in the space program