Idea, research and interview: Aase Nielsen, 2010

Moon Sea Stone
By Astrid Gjesing, poet and visual artist. 2008

Right at the water’s edge someone has pushed the wet seaweed aside and revealed a shiny-wet black diabase, into which are sandblasted the words Dommenes Hav (the Sea of Crises).
The waves lap lazily over the stone and settle in the hollows of the words. Further along the coast is a much larger stone, in the middle of the beach, Regnskyllenes Hav (the Sea of Rains) it says, but here it is not the sea filling the words, but a shower of rain now drifting away over Århus Bay. If you keep walking, you will find among others Stormenes Ocean (the Ocean of Storms) and Kuldens Hav (the Sea of Cold) a work of poetry spread over 300 meters of Moesgård Beach south of Århus. Moon Sea Stone is the name of the work, which I created in the late summer of 1998.

In 23 large, round, water-smoothed stones, brought here by the Ice Age, I have had sandblasted the Danish names for the seas of the Moon. The stones I have selected are situated on the beach at the tidal line. Thus the lunar seas which have never contained water are filled with water by the Moon’s own power – the tide – and through language I thus connect the moon and the water.

The Words
My challenge as a lyricist is, among other things, to work in the border zone between word and picture in the public space. With this work I wanted to create an internal connection between the many layers of meaning in the names, the shape of the stones, their colour and placing – and the water.
There are a total of 23 seas on the Moon – 20 on the front and 3 on the back.
The seas are to me something scientific, something unreal (there is no water on the Moon) and something poetic at the same time. There are good-weather-names – there are vapours, moisture, serpents and nectar in the names. To show this wealth is to nourish sensations, images and ideas, which here in the concrete aspect – the stone and the sea – create new, interesting collisions.
Through centuries the lunar seas have been named in Latin. The basis for this naming was created by the Italian astronomer and geographer Giambattista Riccioli. In 1651, he and Francesco Maria Grimaldi published “Almagestum novum astronomiam veterem novamque complectens”. In this, he rejected much of the earlier nomenclature and laid the foundation for a more poetic one, as for example Mare Imbrium – the Sea of Rains, or Mare Nectaris – the Sea of Nectar. More than 200 names on the Moon are due to him.
There is no authorized Danish translation of the names of these lunar seas; my challenge has been partly to make sure that the names have been correctly translated, partly to transfer the beautiful poetic tradition to Danish.

The International Year of the Ocean
The United Nations proclaimed 1998 the “International Year of the Ocean” in order to create increased awareness of the continuing overexploitation of all the life-giving resources in the oceans, and to generate a larger shared responsibility for these global problems. By focusing on – not the oceans – but the lunar seas I wish to extend the global awareness and responsibility to universal status while adding a poetic dimension.

The Place
An easterly shore (the full moon rises in the East) with large, round stones in many colours and shapes. In my search for the best-suited place, I found it on the southern part of Moesgård Beach. Here I found the place that unites all the powers and all the ideas I had for the work Moon Sea Stone, and I found stones that slowly emerge from the slope and places themselves in the border zone between land and sea. Stones, reborn by the land meeting the sea.

In order to create the work, I collaborated with a great number of persons and public offices. There was forest supervisor Peter Brun Madsen and the staff at the Nature Management who brought the stonecutter’s heavy machines and materials to the beach. The stonecutter who let me convince him that the work should be sandblasted in situ. The Municipality of Århus, who owns the area, and the County of Århus who issued the necessary licences. Apart from them, a number of people from the Steno Museum, the Danish Language Council, the University of Århus and the Port of Århus have helped me with a wealth of information. Last, but not least, pictorial artist Jørn Rønnau has provided loving support.

10 years have now passed, and I have followed the process, which has time and again presented me with overwhelming surprises. I thought that thanks to my preparations I knew all about the beach. But it turns out, that even in such a peaceful place nature is in constant movement and change.
The stones live with the seasons; in some seasons they are overgrown with seaweed and algae, which then disappears again. Storms move the sand about to let some of the stones disappear for years, only then to re-emerge after a new storm. Because the stones act as bearings, you can now follow the changes. One day an extreme low sets in and stones, normally surrounded by water, are now far from the water’s edge. The interaction between work and nature means that now two walks along this beach are the same.
One of the questions I asked the stonecutter was: How long will the writing last? Of course, he would not venture an opinion. But now 10 years after, the first Hav (Sea) has been polished away by the moving of sand and water, leaving the word Fortrolighedens (Known), which is also gradually disappearing.

The Names
Moon Sea Stone can be found by walking south from Moesgård Beach, crossing the Giber Stream, walk on another couple of hundred meters and then you will find the stones among the other stones on the beach:

1. Tågernes Hav (Mare Vaporum) Sea of Vapours.
2. Fugtighedernes Hav (Mare Humorum) Sea of Moisture.
3. Frugtbarhedens Hav (Mare Fecunditatis) Sea of Fertility.
4. Øernes Hav (Mare Insularum) Sea of Isles.
5. Humboldts Hav (Mare Humboldtianum) Humboldt´s Sea.
6. Det Østlige Hav (Mare Orientale) Eastern Sea.
7. Dommenes Hav (Mare Crisium) Sea of Crises.
8. Bølgernes Hav (Mare Undarum) Sea of Waves.
9. Nektarhavet (Mare Nectaris) Sea of Nectar.
10. Slangehavet (Mare Anguis) Serpent Sea.
11. Stormenes Ocean (Oceanus Procellarum) Ocean of Storms.
12. Fortrolighedens Hav (Mare Cognitum) Known Sea.
13. Smyths Hav (Mare Smythii) Smyth´s Sea.
14. Grænsehavet (Mare Marginis) Border Sea.
15. Moskvahavet (Mare Moscoviense) Moscow Sea.
16. Stilhedens Hav (Mare Tranquillitatis) Sea of Tranquillity.
17. Skyhavet (Mare Nubium) Sea of Clouds.
18. Kuldens Hav (Mare Frigoris) Sea of Cold.
19. Opfindelsernes Hav (Mare Ingenii) Sea of Longing.
20. Skumhavet (Mare Spumans) Foaming Sea.
21. Regnskyllenes Hav (Mare Imbrium) Sea of Rains.
22. Det Sydlige Hav (Mare Australe) Southern Sea.
23. Klarhedens Hav (Mare Serenitatis) Sea of Serenity.