Aldo Tambellini b. 1930
The Day Before the Moon Landing (1969)
The Day Before the Moon Landing (1969) is the first in a series of videos Tambellini made to capture broadcast television as it was experienced live. Unlike more involved works such as Black TV, the video simply records Tambellini channel surfing between the networks on July 19, 1969, the day before Apollo 11 landed. And yet, this relatively raw document is remarkable. Recorded very early on in the emergence of home video, when the mere act of being able to capture broadcast television was a marvel, the footage might not otherwise exist today, as major television networks were not yet in the habit of archiving their content. Tambellini corralled the transmission and transformed it into an improvised performance, ultimately structuring a visual poem about the quotidian context of an otherworldly event.

Fleeting glimpses of Apollo 11’s live video feed of the lunar surface (“the clearest pictures yet of its bleak and desolate body,” chimes a broadcaster) are nearly engulfed by competing scenes of marauding motorcycle gangs in The Wild One (1953), a monster destroying a city in an Atomic-era “creature feature,” advertisements for personal products, and an investigative report on sex in cinema. Slivers of ethereal space footage surrounded by the cultural tropes of commercial television and mainstream America offer a striking disparity. Watching this footage in the throes of a pandemic, we are again reminded of the contrast between the expansiveness of the universe and the vulnerability of our small world.