Tectonics is a visual metaphor of recursion, a pervasive and critically important process that occurs widely throughout nature, narrative, and computer science. In the context of the latter, it is one of the many invisible hands that affect and guide our digital lives. You most likely encounter recursion on a daily basis as it provides unmatched efficiency in the methods of sorting and navigating vast amounts of information. Tectonics is a tribute of sorts to recursion, and through the colors, forms, and functions of the artwork I hope that I dictate the complexity and importance of its subject matter. While understanding recursion is not a precursor to enjoying the artwork, if you are interested in the technicalities, please see the recursion section.
Tectonics came from this sentence, which I wrote in early 2019. This last April, after Chimera and Parnassus, I was excited to focus on making a 1/1 piece, something one-off that didn't require me to iterate ad infinitum on parameters, randomness, traits, or a larger edition count. But after encountering a couple weeks of writer's block, I decided to consult my log of ideas. I saw this in my note app, made a few quick prototypes, and decided it was worth pursuing.
The original version of Tectonics was a single 30-40s animation. After fine tuning it and getting feedback, the underlying algorithm/animation was getting close to being finished (above video) and it was quickly becoming one of my favorite pieces of artwork I’ve produced. Towards the end of any project, I enter into a state of enhanced neuroticism involving endless tweaking that is only escapable by deadlines. This was especially the case with Tectonics. I really liked it and wanted to do the piece justice. My self-imposed deadlines came and went as I continued changing color palettes, speeds, structures, and other parameters in my journey to find the ultimate output.
At some point it dawned on me that what I was doing was a painfully slow, unautomated version of long-form generative art. Instead of writing my script to generate many iterations at once, I was rendering them one by one, hardcoding changes and manually altering the parameters each time in a nonrandom way. Every new iteration had something I loved about it, but it was proving very difficult to consolidate all of these highlights into a single render. Randomness is the bedrock of generative art, and I was fighting against it. So despite not setting out to make a multi-output script, that is what happened. I began thinking about minting many outputs, as opposed to the single video, and soon it was the obvious choice. So I spent another month rewriting all the code and functionality from the ground up, but this time with the goal of increasing randomness and breadth of outputs. For several reasons, I found that I preferred still images to the animations as well, so each edition of Tectonics became instantaneous glimpses into the various stages of the algorithm as opposed to full-spectrum animations. I love animation, especially in the context of generative art, but with Tectonics many of the details vanish when encoding to video. After I had a set of outputs I liked, I was ready to move on to building the site.
The original Tectonics
Eventually, after a few months of work, I arrived at this:
"Recursive render textures, projection on grids of scaling geometry"
For the last four or five years, I’ve maintained a running note on my iPhone where I write down mostly incoherent thoughts and ideas related to art or design. When a thought comes, I need to write it down or else I forget it immediately. When I am feeling particularly uninspired, I can look at my list and consider what to make next.