ToSolaris: the narrative

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 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.

* Text based on my conversation with Malte Rauch.

Scene I: Solaris landscape

"Human beings set out to encounter other worlds, other civilizations, without having fully gotten to know their own hidden recesses, their blind alleys, well shafts, dark barricaded doors."

*And its land. And its ocean.

"Is a mountain only a huge stone? Is a planet an enormous mountain?"

Scene II: Radiation

3, 2, 1.

*The planet alters its properties

Scene III: Mutidimensional Spaces

Where all memories emerge

"[...] there is something inside us which we don't like to face up to, from which we try to protect ourselves, but which nevertheless remains, since we don't leave Earth in a state of primal innocence. We arrive here as we are in reality, and when the page is turned and that reality is revealed to us - that part of our reality which we would prefer to pass over in silence - then we don't like it anymore."

Scene IV: Oneself

*Kelvin faces all his past

"On the surface, I was calm: in secret, without really admitting it, I was waiting for something. Her return?"

*Solaris becomes a mirror

"We have no need of other worlds. We need mirrors. We don't know what to do with other worlds. A single world, our own, suffices us; but we can't accept it for what it is."

*Bringing back his own torments

Scene V: Our own radiation

Scene VI: I'll stay here

*Kris decides to never come back to Earth. He chooses his memories.

"Must I go on living here then, among the objects we both had touched, in the air she had breathed? In the name of what? In the hope of her return? I hoped for nothing. And yet I lived in expectation. Since she had gone, that was all that remained. I did not know what achievements, what mockery, even what tortures still awaited me. I knew nothing, and I persisted in the faith that the time of cruel miracles was not past."

Scene VII: Goodbye

*Some of the reasons why Solaris behaves so strange is because it has two suns. And Kris is there, somewhere between them both.

"We take off into the cosmos, ready for anything: for solitude, for hardship, for exhaustion, death".

*Goodbye Kris

*Goodbye Hari

Iskra Velitchkova. 2022