ToSolaris is a generative project released by Iskra Velitchkova during Bright Moments Mexico City event. The project’s theme surrounds the concept of afterlife and is directly inspired by Stanislaw Lem’s 1961 science fiction novel, Solaris. Velitchkova creates multiple narratives through the selection of “scenes” she uses to indirectly represent specific segments of the book’s story with the goal of having algorithms that are able to express central themes within each scene. The series includes common reoccurring elements such as the central Solaris base, a spaceship, and caves that all help in constructing a fictional extraterrestrial landscape through code. Velitchkova explores the idea of our lives including an endless amount of possible trajectories that branch into a variety of alternate lives. This project skillyfully displays Velitchkova’s powerful process of storytelling through the use of generative systems.
In the context of the exhibition at Mexico with Bright Moments, when I began to think about my project, I was inspired by the creative prompt for the event and the concept of afterlife in particular. But I began to have doubts that I cannot adequately deal with the concept of afterlife in Mexican culture; that it would feel like an appropriation. Even disrespectfull somehow by an outsider of that culture.
Instead, I decided to do something that deals with this theme in a more indirect, less culturally specific way. While I was preparing a show in London, I picked up a few books that approach this topic from a science-fiction perspective. One of them was Solaris. Rereading Stanislaw Lem’s novel, I tried to keep the images of Tarkovsky’s movie out of my head so I could really see the story in a new light.
The book is essentially about the choices you make in life and the consequences they carry. It's about Kris Kelvin, a psichologist who travels to the planet Solaris, which he has been studying for years. The planet is almost entirely covered by a large ocean, which is revealed to be a single, planet-encompassing entity – a strange, non-human intelligence that confronts you with everything you think, believe and do. After years of no asnwers, a group of scientists decide to radiate it to explore the reasons of that behaviour, which ends up altering its form and character. In order to gather more information, Kris is sent there. There, he will confront himself with his deepest torments and monsters. He meets Hari, his dead wife. And with her presence, his own ocean of regrets and secret dreams emerge without mercy.
For me, there is something profoundly poetic in this confrontation. There are probably as many interpreations of this novel as readers, but for me it is essentially about the multiple lives we have within a single life. All the trajectories that we could have taken, branching off into a variety of possible lives. Are we our acts or our thoughts? I mean, we constantly deal with our past and regrets, with our secrets loves, with our secret hates, dreams and hypothetical lives. And it all happens in the present. So, irretrievably we are all these persons at the same time. We are all these lives together.
After going several times over the book, I broke it up into episodes and I began to sketch scenes with the code. The different sketches are not directly representational, however; they allude to scenes. It feels personally like the next step in my personal exploration of narratives in generative art. My goal is definitely not to represent literally the story with code; rather, I want to create an algorithm capable of expressing the central themes of the narrative in a condensed form. It's a sequential base of rules, a growing form based on a common element: a base (a platform), from which different elements grow and navigate through Solaris. I find certainly powerful the idea of exploring the whole context of an algorithm, preparing the viewer for an introduction, conflict, climax and denouement of the system.