Life on Mars might not want to be found (extended edition)

Someatime between 1952 and 1958 a hand carving was allegedly found at the entrance to the Decorating room in the Hypogeum. The author (Agius, AJ, 1959) to whose publication the image was traced has included a photo of the hand describing 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?


Vinyl 40x40cm
(Image source : Agius, 1959)
Photo : Olha Ruccya

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. The work is a cross-pollination of meanings between science and magic stretching between eras, extinction events and other-than-human archives. 

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.  

Installation elements
{HōÔaneuu} Video HD 2560 x 1440 (1’50”)
Image of six fingered hand carving – vinyl 40x40cm
Ttttttouchh it Augmented Reality (AR) work & HD video 1920×1080 (1’52”)

Photo :
Audrey Rose Mizzi/ Spazju Kreattiv

{HōÔaneuu} Video HD 2560 x 1440 (1’50”)

Audrey Rose Mizzi/ Spazju Kreattiv

Installation elements
Ttttttouchh it Augmented Reality (AR) work 
& HD video 1920×1080 (1’52”)

Ttttttttouch it is part of A dream of unfiltered air (2021), a work that responded to lockdowns, indoor isolation during heatwaves and speculates about Martian living spaces. Tttttttouch it was integrated as one of the portals in “life on mars…”The work sprouted from a desire to be immersed in nature via a physical contact. After the lockdown and the summer of heatwaves I wanted to create these apparitions of flora in urban spaces and lidar scanned plants that in herbalism and in some cultures have been linked to skin, whether healing or causing skin irritation. This is a 3D scan of Teasel that is debated to be carnivorous. To me carnivorous plants extend the definitions of what a plant or vegetation can be, they have these unexpected characteristics that remind us that our human categories are redundant when applied to the other-than-human agents. Through the process I discovered that my Lidar scanner could often not comprehend the complexity of plants and the light that reflects off them, resulting in somewhat flat, glitchy shapes.

Video (right)
Ttttttouchh it  (excerpt 0’12”)
Augmented Reality (AR) work HD video 1920×1080 (1’52”)

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 looks at the human search for life on other planets and how we use an Earth-centric definition of life to do so. An example of this is NASA’s definition of life as “a self-sustaining chemical system capable of Darwinian evolution”. Currently there are more than 100 definitions of life but we are encountering organisms on Earth that push the notion of what a life form can be further. Extremophiles, viruses and chemical systems with life-like behaviours are expanding our understanding of life and suggest that we might not know the full spectrum of it in order to look for life on other planets. This work speculates about life that we cannot imagine and life that has evolved on Mars after we have possibly contaminated the planet by our extended presence there through our machines. 

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

VR work
Life on Mars (2022)

The VR work is sponsored by Pico Interactive

Photo (left) : Olha Ruccya
Photo (row below) Maja Renn
Letta Shtohryn

Life on Mars.
VR work documentation (video segment) (03’15”)

Videos within VR work (01’23”) + stills

Installation view

Photo :
Letta Shtohryn

Portal1. Lois

HD video 2560×1440 (02’11”)
+ Stills

Seems at home addresses a chance of life evolving on another planet. Together with other works in space the works are a cross-pollination of meanings between science and magic exploring the lifeforms evolving on another planet. In Seems at home the materials that the Perseverance Mars rover is made from – titanium and aluminium – are interpreted using the chart of planetary magical metal correspondences. It suggests a kind of alchemy where chance together with the alignment of planets and metals might play a role in life evolving from the organisms we left behind without being observed by humans. This possibility is not improbable as proven by a robust earthly life form – the spores of Bacillus pumilus SAFR-032 that have been subjected to 1.5 year-long tests and are shown to withstand harsh environments including UV radiation and vacuum, meaning they could survive a trip to Mars.

image above – Seems at home, colour print on aluminium 160cm x 140cm. Photo – Letta Shtohryn 
images below – Seems at home, details. Photo – Letta Shtohryn 

Finding parallels between Martian life forms and local legends of humanoid life that evolved underground in the capsule-like environment of the Hypogeum, the installation further intertwines planets, eras and contexts by speculatively engaging with visual, tactile, material and narrative elements of the legends about ancient sites and imagines the unknowns we might encounter beyond Earth.

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

Photo :
Audrey Rose Mizzi/ Spazju Kreattiv

Installation element
Augmented Reality (AR) work & HD video 2560×1440;
Photo : Olha Ruccya


Background Image by Audrey Rose Mizzi/ Spazju Kreattiv