Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Pricks in Space!

On the 85th anniversary of Andy Warhol's birth, here's the most curious story I've ever read about him. There is, allegedly, a secret art show installed on a hatch on a leg of the Apollo 12 landing module Intrepid. And one of the artworks on display is Andy Warhol's cock.

Artist Forrest ‘Frosty’ Myers tried to arrange for a ‘Moon Museum’ - a small collection of artworks - to be taken to the Moon on Apollo 12 but NASA rejected the idea. He therefore enlisted the help of an unnamed engineer at the Grumman Corporation and did it as guerrilla art.

Work by Robert Rauschenberg (a wavy line), Andy Warhol (stylised initials), John Chamberlain (a geometric pattern), Claes Oldenburg (a mouse), David Novros (a square) and Myers (a computer generated shape) were miniaturized and baked onto an iridium-plated ceramic wafer measuring just 3/4" x 1/2" x 1/40", with the assistance of engineer Fred Waldhauer at Bell Labs.

Waldhauer knew an engineer at Grumman - only ever identified as John F - who agreed to attach it to Intrepid. Consequently, it was taken to the Moon where it remains to this day. It was only later that NASA discovered what had happened, and that the supposedly ‘stylised initials’ drawn by Andy Warhol were, in fact, a drawing of a penis. At least 16 Moon Museums were created, making it one of rarest of 1960s multiples. Here's a better image of the postage stamp-sized 'Museum' where you can see the details more closely:

So, is the story true? NASA has never confirmed it. But, in 2010, the US PBS TV network did a documentary about the alleged lunar artwork and tracked down Apollo 12’s launch pad foreman, Richard Kupczyk, who confirmed that it is indeed on the lander - along with plenty of other smuggled items. 'Apollo was something bigger than life, and we were all part of it,' he said. 'We wanted to leave a mark.' And Frosty Myers is happy to show people a telegram dated 12th November 1969 from 'John F' stating: 'YOUR ON' A.O.K. ALL SYSTEMS GO'.

And the event was reported at the time. Two days after Apollo 12 left the moon (and two days before they splashed down) Myers broke the story to The New York Times which ran the article accompanied by a photograph of one of the 'Museums' - with a strategically placed thumb over Warhol's contribution.

If it was a hoax, it has lasted remarkably well and no one has ever managed to successfully debunk the story. I guess we'll only truly know the truth when we return to the Moon and someone goes and checks. But I hope it's true. I really hope it's true.

One small cock for a man, one cheeky act for Mankind.

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