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State of Return

State of Return is a projection mapped piece programmed using openFrameworks and ofxPiMapper. The narrative is inspired by the cyclicality of all life, matter, and existence. It takes two to tango, but the song is bound to end. In State of Return, the journey never ends, and the cycle goes on.

produced by: Majid Alturki


State of Return is an experimental piece exploring the cycliality of life via visually representating it through code. One can argue that it devolved into an abstract narrative, but it is essentially a journey the revolves around principles like repetition, birth, growth, harmony, synchronism and death. We are introduced to this world as newborns to a societal modal that has gotten accustomed to fixating one's self on the symbolic level of consciousness while mindlessly, or perhaps at times, purposfully ignoring and suppressing the other layers of consciousness. The piece demonstrates a journey with elements of exploration, embracement and acknowledgment of a cycle that leads to growth, with no specific destination to reach. These principles for the narrative were heavily influenced by the concepts stemming from Saṃsāra & Sufism

Concept and background research


Robert Harding / Alamy Stock Photo

Saṃsāra: The cycle of birth, aging and death. It is a state where when something happens, you have ignorance about it, and your reaction to it gives rise to suffering. Saṃsāra is what you get when you don't have wisdom, when you don't see the truth about your experiences. It is the state of mind where experiences give rise to kleshas, which are mental afflictions and disturbances in the mind that cause suffering. It resembles one's natural reaction to an event happening to them and then do the opposite of what would make them happy. 


Sufism Art

Artwork by Rev. Dr. Gina Rose Halpern

Sufism: Dubbed as the mystical expression of the Islamic faith. In terms of its classical understanding, it is what one can say is mainstream Islam, or at least would be. Sufism pertains to tasawwuf, and tasawwuf is the essence of Islam. Without it, Islam is reduced to a mere outward identity that clothes the ego. Sufism pertains to the means by which a person transcends the ego, beyond materiality, and obtains direct knowledge of higher realms, approaching the Divine Presence.

By analyzing and approaching these two concepts from an artistic point of view, I was compelled to create a piece that focused on a narrative that takes a viewer on a journey of self-discovery to accept their own cycles and rise beyond the symbolic levels of counsciousness and explore different ones like sensory, mollecular, and cellular awareness of their sole existence in the present moment. 


The main projection is made up of multiple scenes, but only one preset. The timing itself was utilised by one consecutive timing component that computed time in milliseconds and executed visual changes based on that. The source code also utilises the glm library from openFrameworks. 

As an overview, the entire piece was extremely explorative and I ended up making use of previous personal works to adapt them accordingly. Some of which included the use of noise, sin and cosine waves, and elements of randomness were incorporated to piece things together and make a cohesive narrative. 

A big source of inspiration came from Jun Kyoshi's implementation of a heart in openFrameworks using Daniel Shiffman's function for creating an oscillating heart shape via p5.js. 


Future development

I would love to further experiment with the scene itself, like adding more patterns and audio reactive and generative shapes. Additionally, projecting this mapping using an actual projector will provide a better, nuanced, and a more meaningful experience to the viewer. So in the near future, I will be giving this a shot!  

Self evaluation

Overall, I am content with the end result given the limitations and requirements presented. During the journey of creating State of Return, I was reflecting over myself and projecting an over the top perfectionist attitude. What I learned whilst creating this journey is how not only how time consuming it is to ideate and program such a complex piece, but also the notion to fixate one's self on a very specific destination being wasteful. I have tried multiple implementations and variations of different techniques that ended up consuming too much of my time and energy, hence hendering my creativity. What I have turned to instead was focusing on the present state of consciousness I'm in and sort of going with the flow of projection mapping scene itself. 

Time is valuable, and we don’t really have the privilege of controlling it; at least not yet. I am appreciative of the time it took me to work on this piece, and although it is far from perfect, far from what I’d like to see as a polished artwork; I think it was a great starting point into venturing towards other interesting technical and artistic terrains and skills.