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, emphasizing 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craftsmen from remote villages, the artist creates a collection of captivating artworks and installations inspired by historical references, futuristic materials and fascinating locations.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.

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.

All images by Jorge Mañes Rubio

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

Click here to see the images

Click here to read the short story