Joseph Jefferson as Rip Van Winkle. Photograph seen on 1000 Stemmer.
Daylight licked me into shape
I must have been asleep for days
–The Cure, "Just Like Heaven"
I must have dozed off. Before I knew it, months had passed. But, surely, in the wake of the late holiday season, world peace has broken out all over and every practicing fractalist now lives in a state of harmonious bliss. Thankfully, Orbit Trap is still around to serve as an informal documentation of the historical record. Let’s see what I missed.
Do you think that there will be a time when every new picture will look like one that has been rendered previously or at least has the same "feel" as something rendered previously?
You can read the broader context of the question, as well as Tim’s suggestions for avoiding imaginative stagnation, on the post, but I wondered if Madman was expressing concerns beyond the mass replication of fractal imagery. It’s not just the images that can become stale — or that (what Marilyn Manson once called) "the new shit" (here aka as 3D fractal exploration) becomes old. Rather, what happens when the initial excitement of the whole new scene itself begins to wane — or even starts to become hackneyed or fractious? Here is a short survivor’s guide to keeping yourself above the fray when your fractal scene starts to chafe. You should probably start worrying when…
…when it dawns on you that all those swooning threads that sing the praises of your art work just might be a) insincere and/or b) come with attached strings. Yes, you reap what you sow in social networking circles. Remember the Fractalbook Golden Rule: The praise you take is equal to the praise you make.* Such a Fractalbook double-bind is surely a devil’s bargain. While it’s true all artists have to take some initiative to market themselves, I question whether daily smoozing and exchanging virtual hugs and critical kisses counts in this regard. How many more (and innovative) art works could you have composed in the time you spent stroking the work of others in the hope that you’d be stroked in return? And do you think such a environment of virtual Snuggies is helping to make you a better artist? Or does it instead help perpetuate the very kind of artistic sameness and stagnation that concerns Madman?
…when the Reformation takes you by surprise. No matter how blissful your current scene might be, some kind of Great Schism will likely occur sooner or later. Let’s face it. Artists are human and susceptible to flaws like being extremely competitive and having bombastic egos (could those pernicious "you’re a genius" Fractalbook threads be to blame?). Eventually, sad to say, a parting of the ways will likely take place. Leader-types will emerge — be they programmers, content providers, or just outspoken theorists — and factions will be established. Your once harmonious safe house will no longer be big enough. One group will move out to seek their own FAME and fortune on their own terms. As we know, a house divided against itself cannot stand.** Rather, it usually leads to new schools in the suburbs. Prepare yourself. You may eventually have to face a decision of whether to choose sides or try to remain neutral as best as you can.
…when the NEW IMPROVED new shit abruptly appears and renders your scene suddenly old school. This social iteration could be programmatic — like a new and innovative program. Or it could be theoretical — like discovering 4D fractal exploration. You’ve seen it happen before. Fractint begets Ultra Fractal. Quats beget flames. 2D begets 3D. What’s new eventually wears out — especially when overplayed or mass-marketed to a saturation point. Look at the film industry. 3D is the new shit. Or is it — when it’s patched on by default as a marketing tool? Did 3D "save" the critically shellacked The Last Airbender? My wife and I paid $7.00 more last weekend for the privilege of seeing Tron: Legacy in 3D. We both felt the experience would have gone down just as well and more cheaply in 2D. Remember. Fractalbook is the vehicle for the saturation marketing of fractal art, and 3D fractal renders now appear in these venues with increasing frequency. How long before the glut of "spirally thingies" that Madman laments in the FF post becomes a Google search that leads to a 95% engorgement of 3D thingies?
…when you fail to do your homework and rely instead on others for your artistic opinions, techniques, and aesthetics. You know, those in the know in your fractal scene might in fact know next to nothing. About things like copyright. Fair Use. Protecting your intellectual property. Making prints. Making art. Don’t blindly trust the word of anyone (including OT). Find out for yourself. Get a cross-section of opinions on a subject like whether fractal "tweaking games" are a good practice for serious artists. Weigh carefully the views of your virtual friends against that of an experienced artist like Jos Leys when he says in an OT comment thread that
I’ve always felt that posting a UPR to the [Ultra Fractal Mailing] list is as good as declaring it in the public domain, copyright notice or not. If you want to ‘own’ something, then do not post it.
and then decide for yourself whether posting your parameter files or tutorials of composing secrets on the Web for the world is a sound artistic practice. I once urged OT’s readers to "make the art that pleases you," and not the art that pleases anyone or anything else. That way, if your scene folds up or freaks out, you’re still covered.
In the same Fractal Forum thread, I was bemused to find this observation by Dave Makin:
Certainly at the moment I do not believe that the best fractal art gets the credit it deserves as far as the "art world" or "general public" are concerned but over time this is bound to change, especially given the sterling work of many such as those who organised the exhibitions in conjunction with the Mathematicians Congress…
Makin is referring, of course, to the Benoit Mandelbrot Fractal Art Contest (BMFAC) — a competition in which he is the only three-time winner. Should this particular venue become a success, it is debatable whether the "best" fractal art would make inroads to either the conventional art world or the general public. I do think it’s safe to say that such a development would be what is personally best for Dave Makin.
But in order for either of these scenarios to come to fruition it would first have to be shown that the BMFAC exhibition last August in India at the International Congress of Mathematicians actually occurred. Nothing has changed since I posted earlier on OT that there’s not a shred of proof on the Web that the exhibition ever took place. Nothing on the BMFAC site. Nothing on the 2010 ICM site (search it yourself and see). Google the competition and you’ll (eventually) find info about the two exhibitions in Spain and one in Argentina, but absolutely nothing about the main hoopla-heavy exhibition in India. Sandra Reid, a BMFAC winner, did post this information, which she presumably received from the contest organizers:
Unless the local media in India provide any coverage of the exhibition it is unlikely that there will be any photographs or live footage of the exhibition as there is a complete ban on any electronic equipment in the venue.
Yet, oddly enough, there is a separate page for photos from the conference on the ICM site. Therefore, in the public interest, and since I got no answer the first time, I’ll repeat once more what I said several months ago:
And, reportedly, everything electronic is banned? No cameras? No laptops? No cell phones? No pictures at all — even of the exhibition set-up before the conference started? That’s a serious lockdown. So serious, in fact, it keeps the exhibit’s administrators from even now using a computer to write about the show [emphasis mine].
Now, why might the BMFAC administrators — who twice previously finagled the means to display their work and that of their contest judges beside the work of contest winners — deliberately not want a smidgen of publicity about their previously ballyhooed exhibit?
So, in deference to Makin’s point, I feel that BMFAC can only nudge fractal art to broader cultural acceptance if its organizers take the pains to somehow make clear that the exhibition was — well, you know — exhibited.
I suppose, as we wait (and wait) for definitive BMFAC documentation, we can keep hope alive*** that c.kleinhuis is correct when he claims in a recent OT comment:
in 2011 fractal art will evolve like a phoenix out of the ashes, and it will receive vastly more public attention, and it will become a “real” art-form, because i know many people on the forums are preparing real-exhibitions with tremendous fine art printings…
I imagine the folks behind the late (rather than the re-phoenixed) Fractal Universe Calendar [link appears down] once felt the same way. Or was that before their scarf out of spirally thingies sucked up 95% of Google fractal art image searches?
* with apologies to the Beatles. ** with apologies to Abraham Lincoln. ***with apologies to the Obama campaign.