Michihiro Shimabuku «Moon Rabbit» 2001.
Moon Rabbit, computer screensaver, part of Dia's series of Artists' Projects for the Web, launched October 11, 2001.
Prior to coming to New York in early 2000 to begin work on this project, Shimabuku spent several months in Brazil where he observed that he could see the same moon from everywhere despite its inaccessibility, whereas he couldn't see his native Japan on the opposite side of the globe, but traveling there was easy. This led him to his first working title for this project, You can go somewhere invisible, but sometimes it is hard going somewhere visible.
When considering the task of making his first computer-based artwork, Shimabuku found his interest in the moon intersecting with his perceptions of the screen and the web: prior to television and computers, the moon was the screen humanity projected stories onto, the surface we gazed into daily. He was intrigued by the differences in what cultures see in the moon and wanted to bring these varying interpretations to a world-wide audience, united by what we see online as we are by what we see in the sky: our moon.
Shimabuku noted that in Asia it is a custom for families to look at the moon together. In Japan mothers tell the story of the Moon Rabbit to their children, while giving a flower and a something sweet and round to the moon. He listed all the visual interpretations he could find to encourage people to recreate this custom, this time in front of a computer.
The core of Moon Rabbit, Shimabuku's first computer-based work, is a screensaver of the moon that presents exaggerated depictions of figures imagined on the surface of the moon -- a rabbit, a face, a donkey, a crab, a frog with a rabbit. While gradually dissolving between these interpretations, the image of the moon slowly increases and then decreases in size. Shimabuku found a reference in a scientific book to a theory that the moon had once been very much closer to earth, twenty-five times closer, and this premise led him to imagine a moon appearing twenty-five times larger in the sky. This transition suggests a kind of time travel, suggesting the moment imagined by Italo Calvino in his story The Distance of the Moon3 : «We had her on top of us all the time, that enormous Moon: when she was full -- nights as bright as day, but with a butter-colored light -- it looked as if she were going to crush us.»
As Moon Rabbit launches on October 11, 2001, one month after the terrorist attacks in the United States, the month marker seems especially poignant. While we mark time by months, that is, by lunar cycles, in itself the moon suggests a kind of timelessness, as well as a tranquil beauty that lies safely beyond the range of our destruction.