ToSolaris: the process


ToSolaris is a sequential exploration of the science fiction novel by Polish writer Stanisław Lem written in 1961. Based on a generative system, this project is a research of new ways of going through a story through code. Even if not there yet, I believe there is a strong value on connecting notions from literature and poetry to our systems. A sequentiality on the behaviour of the machine will provide a rich context for the artist to establish a broader conversation with the machine.


November, 2022.

When I first approached this project, just after finishing the book, the whole story was a huge mess. A planet, two suns, radiation, a spaceship, a man, a woman, Earth.. After a few days of dealing with that mess, I came up with an initial idea from which I would evolve the story. I needed a vehicle. A spaceship or an illusion of it, with which Kris Kelvin would travel to Solaris. And I came up with this.

It took me a few days to tune the system and I started playing with scales, strokes and different rotations. At some point, I got fascinated with the view of it in a larger scale. I started adding color and adjusting parameters until...

... until somehow a base appeared. Ah, that was Solaris! The ground. And it was at the same time the vehicle.

Vehicle = landscape
It's the ocean!

Now — adding texture?

I spent a few days iterating on these shapes. I had a really great time playing with these moirées; something not very used in my work. At some point I realized that the project needed some kind of an old, eroded and worn mood for some episodes. Something from the 60-70s, almost a soviet propaganda style, which is how I always imagined the scenes. I decided to explore shaders for that. (Thanks Marcelo for the priceless introduction to them!)

Suddently the base (central element from now on) became a large tower which felt immediately like a spacial base, on the ground of Solaris. Everything was somehow connecting. And after playing for a while with some textures I came up with the mood I was after.

However, the base was too pure and clean; it was clear that it needed some radiation. So I added directional lines.


The base is the central and common element of the whole project


Then I started breaking it and locating it in space in order to recreate land with different elements.

Visiting the ouptuts from the radiated tower, I realized there were these little caves emerging from the shape, clearly an element to play with. I found them so beautiful, and the perfect link to the base and the dimensions I needed to visualize the thoughts and memories of Kris. His whole new world.

So I "cleaned" the tower and focused mainly on these caves.

And a Tatooine mood felt quite appropiate :)

So I designed a mood for the planet before the radiation (more relaxed) and...

...and another for after it (quite electrified).

The caves = Kris' memories and mirrors

This is the most relevant view of the system. How these walls interact and create patterns and voids has been the hardest part to tune. And the most exciting as well. I have explored LOTS of different moods for this and finally came up with a few of them.

Once this episode was covered, zooming out from the idea of Kris confined in the planet transformed his memories and an illusion of a house emerged somehow. Was Kris there? Was it the place he chose to stay?

Then, that scene from Truman's Show came to my mind as the perfect vision of Kris dealing with his own torments, and I made this mirage of a rain to appear occasionally.

As well as the idea of a cage itself.

Are we basically trapped in crystal jails?

Getting close to the end of the book, there were only two more elements to present. Solaris is a planet with two suns. Should Kris stay in Solaris, he will live under their light. The system is set to reveal a random number of suns; destiny will dictate how Kris experiences the planet.

Again, a few syle references :) Quite suitable for the final episodes.

And finally, a last zoom out to display the whole picture of Kris being lost in space.

Goodbye Kris

Goodbye Hari


Iskra Velitchkova. 2022