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Trip to ‘Epsilon,' a Sci-Fi Base Station on an Alien Planet

Animator and designer Maxim Zhestkov tells a science fiction story sans motion, sound, or dialogue.

by DJ Pangburn
Mar 1 2016, 4:10pm

Images courtesy the artist

It’s the year 2135. Presumably humanity has survived climate change, global free market capitalism, artificial intelligence, and the 2016 elections. Instead of designing more mobile devices and social media apps, humanity has built a new technology called Soika that allows us to reach solar systems in close proximity to our own. Dozens of planets have been identified as ripe for exploration, but the best is CRQ2513. There a group of designers and scientists have built a scientific research complex named Epsilon, a piece of futuristic architecture integrated into the surrounding alien landscape, from which the team can investigate the planet and its lifeforms.

This slice of science fiction is a short “visual story” called Epsilon. Written and designed by Maxim Zhestkov, the speculative fiction’s base station, rendered in intricate 3D detail, showcases living modules, research laboratories, and docks for spaceships and drones. Epsilon embodies Zhestkov’s love of architecture, graphic design, animation and film. He spent the last decade creating motion graphics and animation for both commercial and personal projects, which tended to be short films. But after growing tired of the long production cycle of a previous short, Sputnik, Zhestkov decided to make a short story via images rather than animations, and complete it on a tight schedule.

“A few years ago, I drew an image with platforms installed in mountains—this feeling of isolation captured my attention for years,” Zhestkov tells The Creators Project. “I’m a huge fan of architecture, and I regularly read articles on the topic. I especially love eVolo magazine with their futuristic approaches in architecture. Some neurons connected in my head and I decided to make a short visual story based on architecture and design but on another planet. Epsilon is the first one in this series.”

While Zhestkov loves science fiction (Stanislaw Lem’s novel Solaris, in particular), with Epsilon he was more inspired by architects like Le Corbusier and Zaha Hadid. Though Le Corbusier’s visionary modernism and Hadid’s neofuturism may have provided some foundational influence for the Epsilon base’s interiors and exteriors, the look and feel is all Zhestkov. And in the end, it had to feel functional while looking technologically and architecturally advanced.

“As I imagined it, this complex was placed there to research new life forms—tiny microorganisms quite different from our DNA structure,” Zhestkov says. “Hundreds of people live there studying new lifeforms and sending samples to the HUB station near the Earth.”

“This planet is quite young and still with natural terraforming forces,” he adds. “There are almost no plain, only mountains rising from the water.”

With Epsilon, Zhestkov has hit on an interesting way of telling a story sans motion, sound, or dialogue, and he seems to think it’s definitely worth pursuing for other science fiction. In fact, one day he would like to adapt Lem’s Solaris as a visual story, as he was disappointed in both Andrei Tarkovsky and Steven Soderbergh’s adaptations.

“In the future, I really want to create the right visual story for Solaris with the mood I perceived in this novel years ago—a hard, sharp, and philosophically bleak piece of art,” he says. “It was not about love. It was about the isolation of our civilization and the impossibility of finding peers to contact in our endless space.”

Click here to experience Epsilon in its entirety, and to check out more of Maxim Zhestkov’s work.

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