I was really glad to read Damien’s recent entry. I completely agree with him that all fractal artists post-process and that no one fractal tool is proprietary. He is absolutely right. It makes no difference whether I knock my fractal around with masking and layering in Ultra Fractal or import my fractal into Photoshop and put it through similar paces. And I also concur that no one definition of fractal art can be definitive. It’s not surprising I’d see eye to eye with each of these statements. I’ve been saying all of these things for almost ten years.
It’s probably true people might see my work as digital rather than fractal unless told otherwise. But I believe the same could be said of much of the more creative, experimental work that many cutting edge fractal artists have produced in the last few years. I did not mean to pull up old corpses — only to show the difference between then and now. It’s getting tough these days to separate what’s fractal and what’s digital. It’s likely the judges of the 1999 contest I referenced would not recognize most work coming out of UF and other programs today as fractal. That’s because everyone is indeed post-processing — and doing so more and more with every generator upgrade.
So, given that the fractal/digital divide is fuzzy, and knowing that we now live in a new golden age of fractal tolerance and latitude, why are limitations still being placed on artists? Oh, I know sponsors of contests can set their own rules. As a writer, I learned early on not to submit a free verse poem about baboons to a formal poetry contest about kangaroos. However, at least the literary contests will always specify the guiding parameters when reporting the winners: best rhyming poems about kangaroos. By contrast, some major fractal competitions strongly suggest that the winners represent the best fractal artists in the world. In truth, what these contests really showcase is only someone’s idea of what a fractal ought to look like. I wonder whether the public ever comes to see that the selected art represents only a substratum of our multi-faceted, rapidly mutating genre. How ironic is it that these limitations are still being put in place at the very time fractal art is relishing blowing up its boundaries.
Maybe this is all just one big technical vs. visual practicality dichotomy. Or maybe fractal artists should be considering less theoretical and more practical questions. Like: Should a contest’s incomplete snapshot of fractal art be presented as broadly representational to the public? Who stands to gain by using limitations to set the agenda for what the public sees as legitimized fractal art? Damien, I think, said it best: “So really, who gets to decide what is and is not fractal art?”
My last blog post wasn’t just about post-processing. It was also a plea for fractal artists to insist on having artistic freedom without limits. The stakes here could not be higher. If we, as fractal artists, continue to believe that our art must be a particular something to be accepted — whether to “look fractal” or conventionally spiral away over the days of each month — then we shun rather than follow our Muses. Even worse, I fear for the future of our genre. We risk getting stuck in permanent craft mode and never breaking into the blossom of becoming a broadly recognized and established artistic movement.