Gaia Squarci’s “Mars on Earth”
What would it be like to live on Mars? Photographer Gaia Squarci only had to travel 7,900 miles—as opposed to 35-50 million miles—to answer that question through her series “Mars on Earth.”
HI-SEAS is a series of missions, each progressively longer, that monitors the psychological effects of humans in pro-longed isolation. It takes place in a dome nestled on the slope of the Mauna Loa volcano in Hawaii. Writer Laurence Cornet became fascinated by the missions and “dragged” Squarci into the story with her; it was the perfect project for the two. “We have in common the predilection for surreal, specific stories that can open a conversation on broader themes,” Squarci says.
Squarci had no idea what to expect going in. The mission, HI-SEAS III, kept the six crew members intentionally isolated for eight months, and Squarci and Cornet scheduled their trip from Milan to coincide with the crew’s “arrival” back to Earth on June 13, 2015. The two were part of the first group that met with the researchers, who’d had no outside human contact since October. Squarci’s photo essay is quite literally a reenactment of their simulation, as they were walked through their daily activities inside of the dome.
But true to her style, the series is imbued with mystery and ambiguity, allowing viewers to draw their own conclusions; disbelief is temporarily suspended by the visual cues of the crater’s reddish ground and the presence of space suits, yet it feels as if the setting’s artifice, much like the ending of the film The Truman Show, will be revealed.
“Mars on Earth”—which has been published in Newsweek and The Guardian, among other publications—intends to play upon the motifs of science fiction that we are all familiar with, Squarci explains: “It was important for us to convey the human sense of the story: [a] sense of loneliness, [a lack] of points of reference, and the need to call somewhere ‘home.’”