Bec Bigg-Wither | Air-to-Ground: A local commemoration of the Apollo Moon landing program during its fiftieth anniversary

Presented by ANU College of Arts & Social Sciences

BEC BIGG-WITHER is a Canberra artist who works mostly with photomontage. She has been making works about the Apollo Moon landing program for nearly a decade, reflecting her interest in the program's human, metaphysical and visual drama and its epic moral ambiguity. 

This practice-led thesis, which shadowed the fiftieth anniversary of the Apollo Moon landing program, uses photomontage anchored by Apollo-era NASA images to investigate how the program and the psyche that it manifested might best be remembered in the now. In doing so, it adds to the relatively small number of attempts by visual artists to address the Apollo program in depth and as a specific historical undertaking. To this extent, it speaks from the unique perspective of the anniversary as both a major commemorative occasion and an historical moment in which key cultural norms that the Apollo program officially represented were challenged by a new Dionysian counterculture. It also significantly contributes to a body of creative work, largely generated during the anniversary, which spotlights the role of the former Honeysuckle Creek Tracking Station in the Apollo missions. The creative works produced for this thesis run against the grain of contemporary imperatives to focus commemorative efforts on forgotten histories. In doing so, they create new knowledge by proposing strategies for sympathetically remembering a departing hegemon without advocating for its reinstatement, while remaining sensitive to surrounding commemorative concerns. Informed by recent attempts to re-interpret contested monuments as an alternative to their removal, it posits Apollo's documentary photographs as a monument to their creators and re-makes them to articulate their current resonances. Ultimately, the creative works suggest Apollo may still have something to offer in terms of an attenuated 'social heroic' and that its passing should otherwise be marked quietly but with respect.

Bec is a Higher Degree by Research Candidate, completing her Doctor of Philosophy.