"There's beauty in simple things." — Marcelo Soria-Rodríguez in the project's liner notes.
An artist-programmer often follows a known trajectory to advance their skillset: a journey to deepen complexity, expand narratives, or mesmerize their audience with ever more ingenious twists and novelties.
However, any aspiring master regularly revisits the fundamentals of their craft. And indeed, there may come the point when they make the fundamentals themselves the focus of a piece, often leading to a body of études.
simple things by Marcelo Soria-Rodríguez is just such a return to the basics, by a master of his craft. In this piece, the artist sends streams of circles across the screen. The number, sizes, speeds, and direction of movement vary. The color palettes range from monochrome to the explosions of color that Soria-Rodríguez has become known for. At first sight, that appears to cover most of the artwork’s offerings.
However, an ongoing theme in the artist's recent work is the subject of playful learning. So it is also present here: sending groups of circles across a screen is a staple of graphical programming when it comes to teaching the fundamentals of working with arrays.
It’s incredibly satisfying to see these basic shapes jiggle across the screen in a seemingly uncontrolled fashion, and it is this excitement that simple things first elicits. It may also remind older viewers of the amazement of experiencing a simple mouse pointer trail effect many decades ago: using a computer can be playful while also being practical.
Part of generative art’s intrigue is how it often represents the complicated (i.e., human-made technology) and the complex (such as the organic, emergent, chaotic properties of the natural world). So, while "there's beauty in simple things," we perceive that beauty because there is more than meets the eye.
The longer we look, the more we see that various complex principles govern the motion in simple things. Dots become placeholders for things we remember or imagine: they appear like fish jumping out of water or bugs engaged in a mating dance and mosquitos frantically circling a light source. They are dandelion seeds carried away by the wind or pollen patterns formed on a stream of water, rendering visible the turbulence that animates them. Look long enough and they depict broader systems at play – bubbles emerging from the depths, cells flowing through organisms, or simply a primal expression of life force.
Like many Soria-Rodríguez pieces, the viewer/learner/user can experiment with its settings, creating subtle to radical variations.
The "extra" feature (hint: type it!) gives the piece yet another appearance. We are reminded that a simple thing may reveal a nourishing depth if we let our attention sink into it. Or, in the words of the musician Robert Fripp, "just below the surface of our everyday world lie riches."