Tom Dale, The Mars Society (2012)

Optimism is ridiculous, as daft as loading a missile with a payload of flags, as daft as creating flags for countries which don’t yet exist.

But the positivity in Tom Dale’s piece is compelling. His 1950s rocket design looks almost cheery now, more than half a century since it became obsolescent.

If this Tin Tin-esque craft were not innocent enough, it comes with a note about the delightful fact we once considered rockets for supersonic mail.

So never mind Hergé, Dale’s Mars Society could be a shadowy organisation straight from the paranoid pages of Thomas Pynchon.

The V2 shape calls to mind the US novelist’s obsession with rocket technology in his best known work, Gravity’s Rainbow, set in WWII.

During that worldwide conflict, an unexploded bomb landed at Tatton. This too was news of a sort and clearly good news, given the outcome of the war.

Pynchon also mines the history of an alternative postal service in his shortest book, The Crying of Lot 49. One feels he would like supersonic mail.

But why is it that an unmanned and non lethal rocket is so comic. It is as if you take away a feared and hated enemy, the idealism of the arms/space race becomes funny.

The Mars Society is ready to surrender to either side. But perhaps in these days of rogue states and unmanned drones, we need to take this absurd stand.

This work can be seen in Tatton Park Biennial until 30 September 2012. See the home’s website for further details.

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