I got a couple of comments to my previous post, Art, Craft and Fractals, which raised an issue which I think needs to be clarified. The term, Craft, is used in many ways and most of them are probably derogatory in the context of art. But it’s not my intention to bad-mouth craft, only to show it for what it is and what it is not.
Craft is not immature art or the product of an art form in its early stages of evolutionary development: Craft is imagery that’s fun to look at. Craft is not imagery that’s thought provoking or which expresses ideas or feelings. Fractal Craft is simply fractals for the sake of fractals. It’s people who love fractal imagery cooking up and mixing together new recipes of fractals that scratch our itchy eyeballs –itching for cool, new, exotic fractals.
This sort of thing doesn’t lead to art or create the foundation for a bold new skyscraper of art to be built upon. It creates delicious taste sensations set out for our consumption and gobbled up before they have time to cool off. It’s visual hedonism: pleasing, pleasant and pacifying. Craft doesn’t upset people because it’s silent and anonymous like a decoration or ornamental table leg. Craft doesn’t express opinions or even suggest opinions or anything complicated like that. Craft is simply what it looks like: ornamental.
Fractal art might be young as an art form (although I don’t think it is) but that’s different than being juvenile. Fractal art is the domain of craft because that’s what its practitioners pursue and set out to create. It’s the intent of fractal artists to produce slick, multi-layered, eye-popping work. I really have no problem with that because I see craft as a normal pursuit and a perfectly healthy one. I have a problem with people trying to pawn off their craft as art, but that’s just my own critical disposition. I like craft, but I like art more. I’d like to see more art made, but if there’s more craft made as well, who cares? Who cares? is the long term response to craft anyhow. It has a fleeting glory and only briefly holds its audience’s attention. Craft doesn’t enter our long term memory, but exists and is replaced by another shiny icon.
My definition of art and by consequence, craft, is functional. Craft performs a singular function: ornamentation. Specifically, in the context of fractals, craft is work that performs that function. It’s not a matter of what people say it is, it’s a matter of what the experience the viewer has. If you, the viewer, find some of the works in the BMFAC to be thought provoking or expressive in mood, emotion, idea, whatever, then it’s just as valid for you to defend them as art as it is for me to classify them as craft, according to my functional definition.
I don’t know, is this functional approach new and different? The obvious corollary is that art is subjective since it may function differently for different people.
Another thing, craft isn’t junk. I used an illustration of rather “domestic” hand made Christmas ornaments as a somewhat flavorful example of craft, but probably every winning entry in the BMFAC was rather skillfully made and represents artists at the top of the fractal art world. Perhaps people assume that craft is junk is because in an art context, as I mentioned at the beginning of this post, craft is used as a label for amateur, cheesy, folksy, primitive, cliche kind of work. But for me craft is used purely to denote a type of function the work performs and particularly in the fractal art world, craft is often professional, tasteful, complex and utilizing the latest, cutting-edge techniques. That’s why artists consider it to be a real feather in their cap when they win something like the BMFAC or the (now defunct) Fractal Universe Calendar contest. Their peers are saying they make good stuff –like their peers do.
I would prefer to make art instead though. I don’t get as big a Wow! out of just looking at fractals as I did when I first discovered them. I’m looking for something that’s different and appeals a wider area of my brain than simply that sugar cubed sized lump that neuro-scientists refer to as the fractal sugar center. Why any of you professional craftspeople care what I think is odd, really. Am I not a loser in your opinion? I make junk, I like junk, and I write junk. I don’t see what we have in common.
The whole art and craft “dichotomy” just explains what it’s all about perfectly. Two different types of people whose different intentions lead to artwork that performs different functions. One doesn’t grow or mature into the other; fractal craft has already grown up, blossomed and gone to seed. Fractals, the medium, is what we have in common. Not art.