Lunar meteorite UBE-064

Mission: U-TOPIA

Mission U-TOPIA is the result of the collaboration between artist Jorge Mañes Rubio and UBE Industries, one of the largest industrial companies in Japan. Navigating between historical facts and sci-fi scenarios, Rubio transports us to a not so far future, where corporations are searching in space for the resources that are scarce on the Earth, starting a new era of colonisation and exploitation of celestial bodies. Through a collection of compelling sculptures, installations, on-site interventions, images, artefacts and a powerful sci-fi narrative, Rubio reimagines Yamaguchi’s remote landscape as the scenario of this complex journey. The project explores our changing relationship with natural resources from Earth and space, emphasising a more sustainable and responsible approach.

The story takes us through the life of Akitoshi Fujiyama, a Japanese engineer who discovered a lunar meteorite on a local golf course. Before reporting his discovery to the authorities, Akitoshi breaks off a piece of the rock for himself—a decision that launches him on a lifelong quest, affecting his family, his country, and, potentially, the entire planet: going to the Moon. This comprehensive exhibition celebrates the life of this unknown local hero, challenging the relative concept of historical “truth”.

Several artefacts such as a section of the Lunar Module or the Cosmic Japanese Screen are displayed together with photographs and various memorabilia from Akitoshi and his secret mission. Visitors are even encouraged to purchase a piece of the famous moon rock UBE-064 in one of the vending machines available. The theme of a fictional Cold War era Japanese Space Program allows the artist to carefully display a series of artworks with such a strong sense of history that seems that Rubio has not created Akitoshi’s story, but actually unearthed it.

Collaborating together with large industrial corporations and local craftsmen from remote villages, the artist creates a collection of captivating artworks and installations inspired by historical references, futuristic materials and fascinating locations. Through the life of Akitoshi, Rubio invites us to an exciting world where the truth can be as relative and flexible as we please.

U-TOPIA abandoned Pachinko & Slot, Mission: U-TOPIA headquarters, undisclosed location, Japan.

Mission Control room for Mission: U-TOPIA, undisclosed location, Japan.

Exhibition view at AIAV. 

Akitoshi Fujiyama’s working desk featuring several sketches, magazines, clippings cork-board, AV equipment and LST (Lunar Standard Time) wall clock at AIAV.

UPILEX samples at AIAV.

Cosmic Byobu. A Japanese Screen built with UPILEX, a material manufactured by UBE Industries for aerospace purposes. This high temperature resistant polyimide film is regularly used as a thermal blanket and for protection against galactic cosmic rays outside the Earth’s atmosphere. Exposure to Cosmic rays are among the biggest barriers for interplanetary travel and a possible manned mission to Mars. This piece merges the more traditional side of Japanese culture (gold leafs have been used in Japanese screens since the XVI Century) together with a highly futuristic aesthetic and function.

Reflections from the Cosmic Byobu.

Akiko Fujiyama, Akitoshi’s wife, practices Ikebana at home.

Akiko Fujiyama participating at Yamayaki Festival, Japan.

Akitoshi Fujiyama’s Lunar Module Chassis at Mine Auto Repair Centre, Mito, Japan.

A fragment of Akitoshi Fujiyama’s Lunar Module at AIAV.

A detail from Akitoshi Fujiyama’s Lunar Module.

Mito Space Jacket at AIAV. Akitoshi Fujiyama’s Space Jacket features several astronaut patches created by his wife Akiko Fujiyama from fragments of her old kimonos and saris.

A detail from the Mito Space Jacket.

Lookout point on top of Sakurayama mountain, Japan. Location chosen by Akitoshi Fujiyama as a probable location for the Space Shuttle Launch Center.

Lunar Deed, Lunar Map and Lunar Constitution issued by the Lunar Embassy Japan, recognizing Akitoshi Fujiyama as the owner of several acres of Lunar land. 

Panorama from the bottom of Isa Limestone quarry, run by UBE industries, Japan.

The South Pole–Aitken Basin at AIAV. As the lunar south pole has many engineering advantages over other locations (e.g., areas with enhanced illumination and little temperature variation, hydrogen deposits), it has been proposed as a site for a future human lunar outpost. If this were to be the case, the South Pole-Aitken would be the closest major geologic feature, and thus the primary target for long-distance traverses from the outpost.

A detail of the South Pole-Aitken Basin.

Ube Industries Machinery entrance hall, Japan.

Ube Industries offices, Japan.

Vending machines selling fragments of UBE 064, Akitoshi Fujiyama’s Moon Rock, at AIAV.

UBE Country Club 64th hole, Ube City, Japan. The exact location where Akitoshi Fujiyama discovered a Lunar Meteorite. 

Golf clubs and golf glove used by Akitoshi Fujiyama the day he discovered the Lunar Meteorite at UBE Country Club at AIAV.

The industrial landscape of UBE industries at Ube city, Japan.

UBE Industries Truck Garage, UBE Private Highway, Ube City, Japan.

Mr. Yoneyama explaining some of the features from the 80-tones UBE trucks.

Geologic map of the South Pole of the Moon

A 80-tones UBE truck featuring a geologic map of the South Pole of the Moon. A 80-tones UBE truck featuring a geologic map of the South Pole of the Moon travels along UBE’s private highway. The road connects Isa’s cement factory and limestone quarries with Ube city. This is Japan’s longest private expressway, remaining fully operational 365 days a year, moving thousands of tones of limestone, coal, and other natural resources in both directions. By placing one of the main artworks from his exhibition onto the cabin of these trucks, Rubio temporarily transformed this road into a 31.94 km long cultural venue. The intervention reflects on the importance that natural resources have for our future economic and industrial development. Rubio decided to use what at first sight seems to be a colourful abstract artwork, but is in fact a highly detailed geologic map of the South Pole of the Moon. This way, the artist transports us to a not so far future, where corporations are searching in other planets for the resources that are scarce on the Earth, starting a new era of colonisation and exploitation of celestial bodies. 

A 80-tones UBE truck featuring a geologic map of the South Pole of the Moon travels along UBE’s private highway.

A 80-tones UBE truck featuring a geologic map of the South Pole of the Moon travels along UBE’s private highway.

 

Mission: U-TOPIA. The lunar dreams of Akitoshi Fujiyama. 

On a cloudy morning, while practicing his drive, amateur golfer and UBE Industries engineer Akitoshi Fujiyama goes into the bushes of the UBE Country Club to retrieve a lost golf ball. Instead, he finds a strange-looking object, what he assumes to be some sort of meteorite. The most intriguing feature of this rock is its vivid turquoise tone, which somehow reminds him of UBE’s corporate color. Feeling almost certain of being in the presence of an amazing discovery, Akitoshi decides to break off a piece of the meteorite with his golf club, keeping a big chunk of it for himself as a good-luck charm before notifying the authorities.

A few weeks later, the authenticity of the lunar meteorite is confirmed. TheMeteoritical Society decides to name it UBE 064 after the place where it was found (UBE Country Club 64th hole). The scientific community remains perplexed by the outstanding properties that this extraterrestrial mineral possesses, and its potential future applications.

Meanwhile, aware of the importance of his discovery, Akitoshi Fujiyama starts plotting a very ambitious plan of his own. He decides to break up his hidden moon rock into hundreds of pieces and sell them on the black market in order to finance his new dream: going to the moon. He starts planning his own Lunar Mission, which will allow him to bring back about 380 kilograms of moon rocks and start a new and prosperous business in his small town of Akiyoshidai.

Akitoshi starts by contacting the Japanese Lunar Embassy and using most of his savings to buy several acres of lunar land. His plan is strictly confidential, and only his wife, Akiko Fujiyama, and his two best friends, Satoshi and Tetsu, know about it. Nothing can change Akitoshi’s mind, as he’s determined to use all his connections in the whole prefecture of Yamaguchi to start gathering different aerospace intelligence and materials, while entrusting each one of his accomplices with different tasks to complete his flawless plan.

The first thing Akitoshi needs is a location for his Mission Control Center. This subject is very sensitive, since he needs to keep this location and his mission secret, whatever the cost. An abandoned pachinko building in the outskirts of Mine City proves to be the perfect place. The old building has been shut down for several years now, yet Akitoshi is captivated by its modern architecture and mysterious name: U-TOPIA.

Mission: U-TOPIA is now a reality. Akitoshi asks Satoshi, who runs an auto repair shop in a village nearby, to help him build a Lunar Module that will carry him to the moon and back. When evening comes, Satoshi’s auto repair shop is transformed into U-TOPIA Operations Center. Assembling auto spare parts together, the two friends start building their most ambitious project ever.

Akitoshi’s biggest concern is being able to navigate through the dark and deep lunar craters of the South Pole of the moon, where he’s almost certain of finding his cosmic bounty. Akitoshi will need some serious driving skills to find his way around these craters on board his Lunar Rover. Luckily for him, his long-time friend and coworker at UBE Industries, Tetsu, is willing to help. Tetsu has been driving a gigantic 80-tonne UBE truck for a few months now, as part of a top-secret project. Word at the company is that UBE Industries is also on the race to the moon, and has set up a lunar training environment on Earth to prepare this mission. Tetsu has installed a geologic map of the South Pole of the Moon on the front of his truck, so as to start getting his friend familiarized with this remote area while they drive together along UBE’s private highway.

Akitoshi is aware of the risks and dangers inherent in his plan, but he has no intentions of backing off. He’s concerned, though, about spending such a long time alone in space, and missing his home. He’s never been outside of Japan, after all. Akitoshi decides then to create a very special object, a Cosmic Byobu. Inspired by traditional Japanese screens, he designs and build his very own to decorate the interior of his Lunar Module. Akitoshi cleverly uses aerospace materials from UBE Industries, such as the high temperature–resistant polyimide film UPILEX, using it as a thermal blanket and for protection against galactic cosmic rays outside Earth’s atmosphere.

If there’s someone concerned about Akitoshi’s plan though, it’s his wife, Akiko Fujiyama. She tries to take her mind off the Lunar Mission by practicing ikebana at home. Akiko wants to support her husband as much as possible, but she’s also aware of the many dangers that he will have to endure to complete Mission: U-TOPIA. In a romantic gesture, Akiko decides one night to tear apart her most precious kimonos and obis and turn them into astronaut patches. She stitches them one by one into Akitoshi Fujiyama’s space jacket, hoping that these will protect him during his lunar journey.

 

 

 

 

ミッション:ユートピア ~アキトシ・フジヤマの月にかける夢~

ある曇りの日、宇部興産に勤務するエンジニアのアキトシ・フジヤマは、宇部72カントリークラブにて趣味であるゴルフのドライバーの練習中に、ロストボールを取りにいこうとして茂みの中に入り込む。そしてボールではなく、何やら隕石のような物体を見つける。その石の最も魅力的なところは、鮮やかなターコイズブルーの色合いであり、何だか宇部興産のコーポレートカラーを思い起こさせる色合いだ。これは驚くべき発見に違いないとほぼ確信したアキトシは、ゴルフクラブを使って隕石をかち割り、管理者に通報する前にその大きな塊を幸運のお守りとして取っておく事にした。

数週間後、調査によりその物体が月の隕石であることが確証される。国際隕石学会は、発見された場所がゴルフ場の64番ホールだったのにちなんで、その石をUBE064と名付けた。この宇宙鉱物が持つ優れた特性、及びその将来的な利用法について、科学業界は困惑したままである。

一方、この発見の重要性を確信したアキトシ・フジヤマは自ら、とても野心的な計画をスタートさせたのだ。隠しておいた月の隕石を小さなかけらに割り、闇マーケットに密売しながら、自らの新しい夢である「月への冒険」の費用を稼いだ。月の石約380キロ分を持ち帰り、秋吉台の小さな村でビジネスを成功させるという独自の月計画を実行し始めたのである。

アキトシはジャパンルナエンバシーに連絡を取り、月の土地数エーカーを購入するべく貯金をはたく。彼の計画は極秘だったので、この事を知っているのは妻のアキコと親友の2人、サトシとテツだけだった。アキトシの決断は固く、山口県全域にわたるコネクションを用いて宇宙科学の知識や素材を集めにまわり、完璧な計画実行のためにそれぞれ協力者を集る。

まずアキトシが必要としたのは、計画を統制する拠点である。このことは非常に繊細な問題だ。なぜなら費用がどのくらいかかろうとも、この場所と計画とを秘密にしなければならないからだ。そして美祢市郊外にあるパチンコ店の廃墟が最適だと判明する。この建物は数年間閉鎖されていたが、そのモダンな外観と、U-TOPIA(ユートピア)というミステリアスな名前に魅力を感じたのだ。

ミッション:ユートピアはついに現実のものとなる。アキトシは自動車修理工場を営む友人のサトシに頼み、月の石を地球に持ち帰るための月着陸船の制作を手伝ってもらうことにする。夜にはサトシの修理広報はU-TOPIAオペレーションセンターとなる。スペアパーツを組み立てながら、二人はこれまででもっとも野心的な計画を進めていく。

アキトシの最大の懸念は、月の資源を見つける事をほぼ確信している南極側の暗くて大きなクレーター内を移動する事である。アキトシには月面粗紡機の上で暗黒のクレーターを通過するための高度な運転技術が必要なのだ。幸運にも長年の友人で宇部興産の同僚であるテツが助けてくれることになる。テツは極秘プロジェクトの一部として、宇部興産の80トントレイラーを数ヶ月ほど運転し続けている。社内のうわさでは、宇部興産が月へ進出する計画を立てており、地球上に月の訓練環境を整備しているというこという話もある。テツはこのミッション:ユートピアに協力することを承諾し、自らの運転するトレイラーの前面に月の南極の地図を貼付けて、興産道路を通行する車両を運転する同僚達に、この離れた場所のことをじわじわと印象づけている。

アキトシは計画のリスクと危険性について自覚していたが、途中でやめるつもりはない。それでも、宇宙で独りきりで長い時間を過ごすにつれて、ホームシックにならないか気がかりである。アキトシはこれまで日本国外に出た事が全くない。それで、とても特別なオブジェクト、「宇宙屏風」を作ろうと決めた。伝統的な日本の屏風に着想を得て、月着陸線のインテリアとして飾るためにこの屏風をデザイン・制作するのだ。アキトシは賢明にも宇部興産の製造する航空宇宙材料、高温耐性ポリミドフィルムのユーピレックスなどを用い、地球の大気圏外から来る宇宙線を防御するサーマルブランケットのように使っている。

だが、アキトシの計画に関して心配していた人物がいるとすれば、それは妻のアキコ・フジヤマである。彼女は家で生け花の練習をしながら、夫の月計画についての心配から気を紛らわそうとする。アキコは出来るだけ夫の手助けをしようとがんばっている。でもミッション:ユートピアを完遂するためには夫がさまざまな危険性に耐えなくてはならないということを彼女は認識している。ロマンチックなジェスチャーであるが、ある夜アキコは最も大切にしていた着物と帯を引裂いて宇宙飛行士のバッジを作ることにする。そしてバッジを一つ一つアキトシ・フジヤマの宇宙服に縫い付けていき、夫の月探検のお守りになりますようにと祈るのだった。

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The artist would like to thank Mr. Sakurada, Mr. Takao, Mr. Nishimura, Mr. Yoneyama, Ms.Fujimoto from Ube Industries, Shinkawa Butsuryu Co.,Ltd. , Hagimori Butsuryu Co.,Ltd., Mr. Ueno from Ube Sightseeing Convention Association, Mine Auto Repair Centre and all the AIAV staff for their generous assistance in the realization of this project.

Lunar maps credits: Fortezzo, C. M. , and T. M. Hare (2013) Completed Digital Renovation of the 1:5,000,000 Lunar Geologic Map Series. Lunar and Planet. Sci. Conf., Abstract #2114.

This project was created as part of the Akiyoshidai International Art Village Residence Support Program.