Nicholas Widman, “The Martian”

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Potatoes and cheesy 70’s t.v. shows are what stuck in my mind after reading The Martian, not the miraculous escape from Mars or the insane amount of scientific mumbo jumbo used by the author, Andy Weir, in explaining Mark Watney’s retrofitting of Mars. To give some background, The Martian tells the story of the astronaut Mark Watney’s entrapment on Mars following a botched mission to return back to Earth and details his improbable survival on Mars, ultimately leading to him returning to Earth after a perilous rescue attempt. Mark’s life on Mars was a constant struggle for survival and one filled with the lingering feeling that his struggle was a hopeless one. To counteract this constant feeling, Mark would lose himself in monotonous tasks and the comfort of doing things like watching sitcoms from the 70s. The Martian appealed to me because it presented life in a series of self-perpetuating time loops and relayed just how important these tiny little acts are to each of us, as even constant looming death can be evaded with Watney’s simple mix of potatoes and ketchup every night. I found how comforting it was to spend hours devoted to one silly sitcom or dousing food into way too much ketchup extremely similar to my life as I find myself constantly wasting time in the same way often without even realizing I’m doing it. In wasting this time and falling back on what I’d always done I discovered a way to avoid the problems that I face in my life just like Mark and like almost every other human being on the planet.

I’ve decided to focus my project on people, who like Mark Watney, have become separated from the world or maybe they’ve lost hope, or they’ve simply stopped needing human interaction in their lives. Every one of these people rely heavily on their self-imposed time loops, as I do, and I hope to instill in those who read/see my project the same feeling of similarity I felt in reading The Martian. These time loops are the every day parts of life that we can’t live without, such as the need to eat more or less the same foods each day and the need to listen to the same playlist of songs on repeat. These loops are the way that the people I’d like to focus my project on distract themselves from their problems and I’d like to explore why exactly we choose these loops and why they leave us feeling happy despite rarely changing. I created stories designed to show the relationships people have with time loops in their lives. Each story focuses on people who have begun to believe themselves as isolated, or as an outcast like Mark Watney, and to combat this each of the people develop a crutch to lean on to avoid their feeling of isolation and other problems they may have in their lives. My artist’s book focuses on these stories but as seen through the eyes of a Martian robot named “The Eye” who is tasked with understanding how the human race functions as part of a project called “The Martian”. The robot is assigned three specific people to watch and document in order to complete this task. Through observing these people the robot comes to intimately know the people he studies and in the process create a much different view of people than the commonly accepted view of humanity adopted by the people of Mars. I hope to instill in those that view my artist’s book and read through the stories that are correlated with it that to live as a person is to rely heavily on the self-imposed time loops that make looming problems, like the constant fear of being lonely, much easier to swallow, often even allowing to become distracted from our problems altogether.

To view the digital content of “The Martian,” click on this hyperlink.