What if we treated our planet with the reverence we have for Mars

CAPTAIN: Tarik Halil


Tarik Halil:

Utopia Planitia is a project to shift our perceptions about our planet by looking at it as if it was Mars.

Lulworth Cove in Dorset has been a site of scientific study in relation to Mars. The small acidic streams in this specific area are said to mimic the environment on Mars from a billion years ago - hinting that there may well have been life inhabiting it. This loose yet interesting connection sets the scene for the closest I can get to a Mars mission right now. So I took a trip and made a short film documenting a trip to Lulworth Cove as if I was on Mars. While I was there I collected land samples, documented rock forms, and planted some wheat to see if we could sustain life there.

Above: What is in the sample box?

"On my mission to Mars, I felt that in addition to my personal to-do list, I should really do some work for the scientific community while I was there. So, using my homemade space trowel, I collected land samples at 3 different locations. They contain rocks, stones, soil, sand. All were specially sealed with duct tape, string and scrap metal for safe transportation back to the labs."

Below: check out the video Tarik made exploring Lulworth Cove and the interview below that. Who's Matt Damon now?



Why do you think people are more interested in Mars than Earth?

I'm not sure. I think for some people the environmental crisis on Earth is very daunting and it seems so far gone. The possibility of moving to Mars could be seen as an 'escape route' to avoid the problems we've caused here. It would be a new start where we wouldn't have to deal with the environmental decline of Earth. But that's the pessimistic side of me. The optimistic side of me hopes that people are just curious about the solar system. It's fascinating that Mars has a completely different environment and the possibility of completely different life. The idea that there's a planet covered in rocks and red sand, that you can sometimes see in the sky is so exciting. It's just so tempting - it's so far away but it's also so close.

Are you environmentally minded?

I'd say I'm environmentally minded. There is definitely more I could do but I try to consider the environment in more and more decisions each day. I think looking at Earth as if it was another planet reminds me not to take the resources here for granted. I wouldn't want to go to Mars and pollute their air, cut down all their trees and dislodge all the aliens... Maybe this analogy isn't factually correct but you get what I mean. It's metaphorical.

Favourite depiction of Mars in film or fiction?

I'm a massive fan of science fiction in general and that's what led me to start this project. I quite liked 'Mission to Mars' (2000) and I also really like Ridley Scott's 'The Martian' from a few years ago. It's quite a light-hearted film but the irony is entertaining for me. I tried to include some of the satirical elements in my own film, like carrying around a step ladder so I could take the dramatic first step down onto a new planet. At the moment I am reading the novel 'Dune' and although not directly about Mars, it provokes some more serious questions about the ecology and colonisation of a new planet - I would definitely recommend it.

Would you be on the first space ship colonising Mars?

I've thought about this question a lot and I think the answer is no. I would definitely go to Mars but not on the first ship and not to colonise it. I'd probably go on the second or third spaceship so I know it would be safe. And I'd definitely book a return ticket.

Recommendations on Lulworth Cove?

Lulworth Cove (or as I now call it, Mars) is very nice. The landscape is incredible and the geology of the area is so cool. It is part of the Jurassic Coast so the whole coastline is a beautiful place to explore. When I arrived I realised how awe-inspiring it was so it really set the scene for my film. I hope the film does the landscape justice. I'd recommend checking out St. Oswald's Bay, Durdle Door and look out for small, green streams with dark red deposit around them - this is what scientists have been studying in relation to predicting the possibility of life on Mars.

You're allowed a luxury on your mission to Mars - what do you take?

That's a tough question. I'm stuck between something sentimental to remind me of my family and friends, or something to ease the boredom during the 9 month journey there and back. I'd probably pick the first three 'Fast and Furious' films.

What were your ideas behind the images? Why the derezzed ones?

I chose to keep the film looking like Earth because it was more about interacting with the space as if it was Mars. It showed a symbolic connection. The photographs show a visual connection between the landscape here and the landscape on Mars. The rock formations were so evocative of the red planet and the location did visually make me feel like I was somewhere alien. The only thing that gave it away was the colour of sandstone, so I edited the photos to make them appear more red. It is a series designed to transport the viewer to bleak environment on Mars, making them forget that they are actually on Earth, looking at photos of Lulworth Cove in Dorset.

The de-rezzed ones were made to create another viewpoint for the viewer. I was researching ways of recording landforms and came across something called Lidar Technology, which uses special laser-type cameras to map the environment. These images are like looking through a Lidar camera and seeing the mapped environment as a collection of dots.

Check Tarik's ambient Maritian sounds below and check his instagram and websites.