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Life on Mars might not want to be found

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Life on Mars might not want to be found
(3d scan of the work in the exhibition space).

Exhibited as part of a group show
Such stuff as worlds are made on (Valletta, MT)

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Centre left - video projection of Jenna Sutela's nimiia cétiï

At Such stuff as worlds are made on (Valletta, MT)

Drawing upon the urban legends, ghost stories and extraordinary experiences linked to the Ħal Saflieni Hypogeum site, the work builds a speculative cartography of encounters with other-than-humans and considers their agency.
The work is a cross-pollination of meaning of life forms encounters between science and magic stretching between eras, extinction events and other-than-human archives. 

Seems at home


Starting with the image of the six-fingered hand carving, touch is explored here as a gesture that activates portals of sensing and as a contaminant on a human and planetary scale. This work speculates about life forms evolving in human-free environments, and the practice of terraforming by the Earth stemming Martian life forms.  


Sometime between 1952 and 1958 a hand carving was seen at the entrance to the Decorating room in the Hypogeum. The author (Agius, AJ, 1959) has included a photo of the hand to his Malta Guidebook. He described it as a hand with six fingers, measuring 20.5 cm x 10 cm (at the metacarpus). The image of the hand does not have any further reference, an author or an indication when it was taken. The author of the publication did not reveal his sources. The hand entered some of the more mystically-inclined canon of the Hypogeum narratives and became a kind of self-looping hyperlink. Heritage Malta archeologists (interviewed by the artist) state clearly that the carving is not to be found in the hypogeum in the current time. This leads to a number of questions. Was the hand always there but overlooked by the archaeologists for about 50 years after the discovery of the site in 1902? Could it only be seen under strong torch light illuminated from a 220 degree angle? Did it appear for a short period of time and deteriorated quickly? Is it a portal? Where does it lead? Was it carved by the humanoid beings that live in the tunnels under the hypogeum, that were encountered by Ms. Lois Jessup in the mid-1930s?

Polydactyly during the Neolithic and Bronze Ages was revered in Mediterranean. Does it mean that the hand will only show itself to the person with polydactyly? More importantly has the carving got any relationship to the six-fingered glove floating in the Martian atmosphere, observed during the Mars landing?


Video HD 2560 x 1440 (1’50”)

Letta Shtohryn_Life on M_Still_relics_ed

Photo :
Audrey Rose Mizzi/ Spazju Kreattiv

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Video HD 2560 x 1440 (1’50”)

(right bottom)
Portal. Black dragon fish
Video HD 1080×1920 (1’00”) 

(right- centre)
Life on Mars.
VR Work documentation (12’15”)


Portal1. Lois
HD video 2560×1440

Photo :
Letta Shtohryn

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Finding parallels between possible Martian life forms and local legends of subterranean humanoid beings that evolved within the capsule-like environment of the Hypogeum, the installation intertwines planets, eras, and contexts. Through speculative exploration, it delves into visual, tactile, material, and narrative elements inspired by the Neolithic site legends, alluding to the enigmatic possibilities we may encounter beyond Earth, underwater, and deep underground, as well as our lack of knowledge about these non-human-centric realms. Additionally, it examines the uncanny resemblance between recently documented terrestrial underwater organisms and our collective imagination and expectations of extraterrestrial life forms.

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Life on Mars.
VR work documentation (segment) (02’23”)

Augmented Reality (AR)
work & HD video 2560×1440;

Following Donna Haraway’s suggestion that "it matters what matters we use to think other matters with; […] what descriptions describe descriptions. […] It matters what stories make worlds, what worlds make stories" (Haraway, 2016), this work examines the human quest for extraterrestrial life and how our search is constrained by an Earth-centric definition of life. An example of this is NASA's definition of life as "a self-sustaining chemical system capable of Darwinian evolution." Currently, there exist over 100 definitions of life, yet we continue to encounter organisms on Earth that challenge our understanding of what constitutes a life form. Extremophiles, viruses, and chemical systems displaying life-like behaviors are expanding our conception of life and suggesting that we may not possess a comprehensive understanding to effectively seek life on other planets. This work speculates about forms of life that elude our imagination and considers the possibility of life evolving on Mars, potentially influenced by our own contamination resulting from our prolonged presence and the deployment of our machines.

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Seems at home

Seems at Home addresses the possibility of life evolving on another planet. In this work, the materials that make up the Perseverance Mars rover—titanium and aluminium—are interpreted using the chart of planetary magical metal correspondences. It explores the concept of randomness and the odds of life evolving on Mars through the analysis of metal correspondences and how these metals are influenced by the positions of planets. By combining the alignment of planets with the interpretation of metals, the work attempts to predict whether life can evolve from the organisms we may have inadvertently left behind through our machines. Since we cannot witness the formation of life firsthand, we will never know whether the moments of planet-metal correspondence contributed to it or whether it was a random event. The possibility of Earthly organisms evolving outside of Earth is not zero. This possibility has been demonstrated by a robust Earthly life form—the spores of Bacillus pumilus SAFR-032, which have undergone 1.5-year-long tests and have shown resilience in harsh environments, including UV radiation and vacuum conditions, suggesting they could survive a journey to Mars. However, the question remains: can they also survive and evolve on Mars? Only time and the planets will provide the answer.

Materials: colour print on aluminium 160cm x 140cm.
Photo – Audrey Rose Mizzi/ Spazju Kreattiv 
images below – Seems at home, details.



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© Letta Shtohryn 2024
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