Mars Barren, 2016
Virtual reality projected space, cardboard, acrylic medium, red desert sand, acrylic paint

Mars Barren is an interactive full-sphere experience, using projection and VR technology to allow an exploration of a mythical Mars landscape, and ultimately reminding us that much of what we dream of in Mars, we already possess on Earth.

Central to the work is a ‘Mars artefact’ – a rock-like prismatic form which sits inside a circle of red Mars dust. This artefact is the source of a light, a torch which is used to reveal a Martian landscape, in the form of a 360 degree projection, which utilises accelerometer technology to allow the direction the artefact is pointed to alter the part of the Martian landscape which is visible.

The Martian landscape is a computer manipulated interpretation of the imagination and cultural mythologies we have applied to the idea of Mars. It speaks to our largely unrealistic dreams of Mars colonisation, and aims to contrast these with the reality of what Mars actually is – a completely barren land*. This imagined mythological Martian landscape gradually fades into the reality of what Mars is – an actual NASA image taken by the Mars rover.

This contrast between the fantasy and the reality is reinforced through the accompanying audio track, a computer-voiced monologue reminding us of all the small things we might not even think about on Earth, that are not on Mars – flies, cheeseburgers, the capacity to feel a breeze on your skin.

 

Imagined Mars vs Actual Mars. Click to expand.
(360 images, use mouse to explore, or tilt smartphone.)

As we as a civilisation embark on our journey to Mars, we must remember what it is and is not. It is not a replacement Earth, and we must not lose ourselves in Mars fantasies at the cost of tacking Earth’s problems.

This work is ultimately not a criticism of Mars exploration, but a reminder that it is not a panacea or a solution to our problems here on Earth. It is important to interrogate our motivations and assumptions about what our relationship with Mars can and will be, and enter this great adventure with clear heads and realistic goals.