Presented by Art Blocks Curated ⤤ • September 2023

Torrent is about being washed away but not lost.

Inspired by residual evidence of torrential downpours, floods and derailed rivers as well as thrown paint and ink, cathartically applied for the purpose of merely having watched it land, streak, smear and drip; just to leave a mark.

Textures of fabric, concrete, paper and marble fused by a tempest... now desiccated and faded, bleached and marred by debris washed on after exposing moments of life. Moments lost; etched incomplete into the landscape.

A nostalgic and possibly misguided love song fusing frantic rhythmic action, erosion and history in a way only time can compose after the violence has long ceased and we are left to excavate the damage and beauty of what can't be harnessed, only experienced or interpreted after the fact, even if any resulting conclusions are fictions filled with contradiction.

Less about truth, more about just having a story that we believe makes sense of it all. Rarely are things black and white.

Torrent is about coming to terms with the past so we can understand the present and navigate the future. In a sense, we're talking about trauma processing, the imperfection of memory and how history changes with time and reflection.

Torrent, like most of my projects, revealed itself over time. I don't usually start with a concrete concept in mind but if I feel that something starts to emerge as a possible theme, I'll lean into it for a while to see how it resonates with me, and within the piece itself.

I may have an aesthetic or emotion in mind, or a particular idea for a possible algorithm to try, but anything initially imagined is usually left behind. I like starting that way because it leaves so much open, even if that means immediately abandoning the initial intent or killing a darling or two along the way.

This isn't to say there are no constraints, but its less "I want to do this with these elements" and more "What can I do with these elements?"—where elements could be just lines and circles, or a shader technique. If those elements don't inspire, maybe one is swapped with another, but in general, I like to only use a few elements to avoid a kitchen sink, even if those few elements are used maximally.

As I played with this algorithm, certain things kept coming to mind.. waves, echoes, desert landscapes, fabrics, paint and ink splatters.. sometimes veins or marble.. even occasionally rock or concrete.. all mixed, layered and smashed together.. sometimes tagged like abstract graffiti or street art.. and somehow almost tangible... something I wanted to touch, or at least understand how they became.

"How things became" is theme that pops into my head pretty often.

On a grand scale, the things that tie our world together confound me. At the risk of sounding dumb, I'm often asking myself:

How did we even get here, as a people? (The quick follow-up being.. and this is what we decided to do? Really?)

Yes, I've read Sapiens, and high-level, of course, I get it, biological mutations, religion and agriculture, etc.. but it's incredible and absurd that anything has come out of the chaos of existence at all.

Thinking about how of cultures, cities and infrastructure have evolved over millions of years causes me to short circuit.. how much was actually planned and what came out of random course adjustments from people making things up on the spot, out of need or curious exploration... sometimes ending up as fascist or capitalist nests or escapist counter-culture communes and suicide sex-cults, any of which possibly led by whoever is the most charismatic, brutal or delusional.

What are we attracted to most? If we knew would they continue to attract?

What didn't we notice as we spread, and what did we see and choose to ignore?

There's no perfect history of each element of our civilization, so to fill in the blanks we often come up with some myth for how it became, because we need something (anything) to tell ourselves... or we just look away and don't give it a second thought.

And yes, sure, occasionally there are facts, but that's not what this is about. This is more of an exploration of what we don't know, but create our own truth or history for.

Now, let's narrow the focus to just our individual selves.

How did we get here, on a personal, emotional level?

How much do we let ourselves investigate internally and do we really want to look at all of what we are and how we became?

Memories repressed to cope.. or just staying busy enough to distract from what we might already know, but don't want to admit or go so far to actually understand.

Does our experience equal truth anyways? Does it need to?

What do we need to understand or believe so we can move forward and thrive and what do we need to look at directly so we can properly leave it behind?

The only way out is through, and sometimes we've side-stepped so much that we need to move back so we can actually move through it head on.

Avoidance is a gift until its a curse.

It's also possible that what needs to be explored came before us and was inherited—perhaps cruelly—from our parents and community (or lack thereof.)

How does the nature of the universe affect our personal understandings of our self?

We'll never understand everything completely, but occasionally we need to not look away.. if only to compose our own narrative so we aren't crushed under the weight of existence.

Maybe Torrent is about all that, and maybe not.. that's up to you and how you connect with it, but all these things crawled out of it for me.

When I see these mashed up, water-stained and distorted compositions, I can't help but think they are some representation of some past event, or a version of a place or a time deconstructed and rebuilt into something else. Layers of the story obfuscating others and distorted by perspective or time.

The way Torrent is constructed—code-wise—leads me a little as well.. and while I'm not going to go all that technical, I will talk a little about how the main components could act as metaphor for this process of investigation, self-reflection, trauma processing or whatever we want to call this.

There's two main components to Torrent's construction: (1) a base composition, which is just a bunch of simple shapes (circles, lines, etc) painted to a canvas as pixels, and then (2) a shader which acts as a lens through which to view that base composition.

Base composition on the left, with 3 different views via the shader.

Simply, this base composition is given to the shader, which through a bit of math, decides which pixels make it through and where they are placed, which may be far from where they originally were on the base composition.

We could think of this shader as our imperfect memory.. converting an event (or set of events) into a relative, subjective and possibly false construction. Some of the original composition may not even make it to the final image just by nature of what parts the shader allows us to see with the parameters or time it's given.

Time was mentioned. Let's talk about that.

Maybe you've discovered this already, but Torrent can animate.

Click on it or tap 'P' to start and stop it. There's other controls too but, for now, just know you can speed up or slow down what is happening and you can step forward and back one frame at a time, if desired.

How does this element of time play into this metaphor of self-reflection or processing?

If we think of this as a playback of an event or memory, then it could map to it unfolding, but I like the interpretation that it represents how our understanding of our selves, our past and our world change over time.

The elements themselves may not change, but certain things may be visible to us at certain times, and not others. We may decide we prefer not to see something and hold that for another time, or never, who knows.

In keeping with the metaphor for memory or understanding, the animation will never repeat, as these things are usually not static.. over time the components may interact differently, or mask something out, perhaps even stutter or mislead by making logical (or even irrational) jumps either to fill in a gap or add to some version of denial.

Simply, our understanding can change over time.

Processing can be a constant state of reform; we can run it over in our heads until we find peace, or just resign to its mystery.

Torrent was created using p5js and a shader. Make sure your GPU is enabled.

Key Commands:
S : Save the current frame as a png
P : Play/Pause animation
A : Advance a frame
Z : Go back a frame
F : Speed up animation
D : Slow down animation

URL Parameters:
?fullscreen=true : Fill entire window
?animated=true : Animate by default
?width=x : Render image with x width (read notes below)
?print=true : Use with "width" to render larger than 5000px wide
?frame=x : Start at frame x
?speed=x : Start at speed x, default is 10, 1 is fastest, higher numbers are slower

Render notes:
The default renderer can only render up to about 5000px wide because of how it uses a shader. If you want a super high resolution file for printing, use print mode, as this can render at much higher sizes. Print mode removes the ability to animate.
For example: ?width=12000&print=true

For high resolution images, please use a Chromium browser (Chrome, Brave, Edge, Arc) as Safari gives up pretty easily, at time of publishing at least.

Exported image files will be named like:
The 'f' specifies the frame and 's' is the speed. This way if you want to recreate a print quality render of a particular frame (at a particular speed) you can deduce that.
For example: ?width=9000&print=true&frame=20&speed=10

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