More Thoughts on Good and Bad Fractal Art

And I've commented until I'm just skin and bones...

Too much “good” fractal art is killing me.

[Photogragraph seen on]

I liked Tim’s last post. I think he’s right. And I figured why not carry on this conversation a bit more.

Maybe so-called good fractals truly are bad because they’re made for the wrong reason. In a way, fractal art got off to a “bad” start. Fractal images were first shared on Usenet with its threaded comment structure. Consequently, fractal art (unlike, say, digital photography) initially only had one primary outlet for mass distribution. So images were posted with comment threads in mind. This led to institutionalizing the following criteria: The longer the comment thread, the better the image. So, almost by design, fractal art became about making art to please others more than creating art to please yourself. Vision isn’t what you see but how you see others seeing you. This model still holds sway and is embraced by Fractalbook today — only with many more bells and whistles.

Worse, certain fractal artists cooked up contests that skirted ethics and deliberately rewarded their own work and that of their friends. What then happened? Their aesthetics eventually became the rubric for “good” fractal art — first with the Spiral Swirlies School (Fractal Universe Calendar), then with the layered fractal pancakes that privilege more recent versions of Ultra Fractal (Benoit Mandelbrot Fractal Art Contest).

But truly good art rarely wins the People’s Choice Awards — that is, generates the longest, gushing comment thread at deviantART or Renderosity, serves as a FUC headstone/eyecandy for a month, or wins that “big” contest like BMFAC. In fact, truly good art is often deemed ugly. Such a designation, of course, labels such art as bad, at least in the conventional wisdom and in the eyes of the undiscerning. So, it’s shunned. After all, to acknowledge it, even as strange or different, would call the established order into question.

But isn’t that what good art is supposed to do?

I guess I feel that fractal swans aren’t choked because they are either over- or under-processed. They’re choked while still cygnets by slavishly adhering to the BMFAC/FUC rules, aesthetics, and codes of artistic conduct. UF propagates the status quo, even makes replication of the prevailing “good” model easy, since only a few of the fractal programming wizards write the cardinal codes. The UF serfs gobble up the UF List crumbs, then fire up their photocopy machines. But, like copies, each successive tweaked dupe loses something and adds to an ongoing digital landfill glut. But what’s more important? Making stunning, relevant art? Or keeping the pecking order in check? Everyone knows the drill. Emulate the (self-proclaimed) “most important fractal artists in the world” and they’ll probably put their hands on you and let you into the temple. Just as long as you understand you’ll always be a “grasshopper” that must never dare to question or challenge the masters.

And, as experience shows, if you don’t deliberately imitate your “betters,” the result is a foregone conclusion. You wind up a perpetual “loser.”

How to break the cycle? Easy. Make the art that pleases you rather than the art you think other “good” artists want to see.

Tags: fractal, fractals, fractal art, fractal blog, benoit mandelbrot fractal art contest, fractal universe calendar, mississippi school of anti-fractal art, choking the swan, cruelanimal , orbit trap