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Gardening Mars shows many of the diverse aids and attributes used (on earth) to simulate and imagine life on Mars

Gardening Mars is about the 'terraforming' of Mars, or the transformation of Mars into an environment that is suitable for earthly life. Prior to this physical and biological intervention necessarily has to come another phase - the one we are still in now.  This is the phase of imagining Mars as a second, 'other' earth - the actual start of terraformation. This ‘cultural’ terraformation of Mars is informed by developments on earth, such as the climate crisis, doubts about technological ‘progress’ and the focus on perpetual economic growth.

Four narratives on terraforming

Four different narratives or frames can be identified in the current phase of terraformation of Mars. Through the eyes of science, Mars is a swathe of untouched nature to study, but not to change. Mars is also presented as a new Noah’s Ark, a Planet B, where earth’s species can be protected from destruction. Next to this, techno-utopians see Mars as space for the desired and legitimate next technological step in human evolution. Finally, capital is already being invested in the expansion of the earth’s economy over the solar system, with Mars cast as a Wild West and economic hub. Gardening Mars shows how we cannot help but use the earth to represent Mars, yet at the same time it shows the limitation of this form of imagining. Gardening Mars is thus also a call for a more radical, holistic form of imagination, which is urgently needed on earth.

Gardening Mars Research

The following research has been carried out by Het Nieuwe Insittuut over the past year, including public presentations.


The sources of the texts that are used in the exhibition are collected here.

Interview Wieger Wamelink (WUR)

Building Ecosystems on Mars

Interview with Wieger Wamelink, ecologist at Wageningen University & Research (WUR). (Dutch only)

Interview Jorge Vago (ESA)

Terraforming Mars

Jorge Vago, researcher at ExoMars 2020 mission, European Space Agency (ESA) ESTEC in Noordwijk, on the notion of 'terraforming'.

Making up Mars

The 'Making up Mars' event on 11 May 2017 investigated the interplay between cultural, scientific and technical ideas related to living on Mars. With Agata Kołodziejczyk (European Space Agency, ESA), artist Ivan Henriques and Klaas Kuitenbrouwer (Het Nieuwe Instituut).

Hetty Berens, Guus Beumer, Marten Kuijpers, Klaas Kuitenbrouwer, Maurizio Montalti, Suzanne Mulder, Marina Otero Verzier, Mark Wigley
Frank Bruggeman, Overtreders-W, Andres Jacques
Boy Vereecken, Bardhi Haliti