Oxford Tire Pile 9b by Edward Burtynsky
[Click on images to see higher resolution renditions.]
Shut up and play your guitar.
Seriously. I mean it. Calling yourself a "fractal artist" could be damaging your fine artistic street cred.
On the Wikipedia Fractal entry, as Tim revealed in his last post, there’s plenty of credible authorities with advanced degrees talking in terms that are "too technical for most people to understand." Meanwhile, over on the more anorectic Wikipedia Fractal Art listing, the itemization of fractal artists is absolutely emaciated. Most of the listed artists fall into the Phase 2 category. Among the Phase 1 fractal software renderers, one has "appeared…on magazine covers" and another "specializes in fractal art." Hey. Don’t we all?
This discrepancy between definitive believability for the technical aspects of fractals but sputtering generalities for the accomplishments of so-called "fractal artists" leads to an inescapable conclusion. Fractal art is near-universally seen as a technical rather than an artistic achievement.
from Franciacorta by NeSpoon Polska
As much as I’d like to blame the viral glut of dreck churned out on Fractalbook‘s assembly lines for the technician status of fractal art, I think it more adept to find fault with the self-promoters of the not-so-lamented Benoit Mandelbrot Fractal Art Contest (BMFAC). The competition’s promoters insisted on entries that were technically pure and purely technical. The BMFAC rules page says that the contest wants artwork that is
uniquely fractal; artwork that uses fractal tools to produce less-fractal imagery is not as desirable (but is not disqualified). We want artwork that will look good when printed large (i.e. has lots of good, interesting fractal detail)
or it used to say that but no longer does because…
The Beacon by Ben Young
The Beacon (Detail) by Ben Young
…because all of the BMFAC web pages are no longer online. That’s right, BMFAC celebs, the galleries showcasing your "award-winning" work are kaput. Nothing remains of the 2007, 2009, and 2011 web sites but a generic GoDaddy holding page. So, BMFAC victors, your 15 minutes (pixels?) of fame are up. From now on, I guess we’ll just have to take your word that you once placed in a BMFAC competition — or else check the archives of Orbit Trap.
However, as a silver lining, all of the showcased images of BMFAC’s judges, unethically grandfathered through the back door into being hung in some of the exhibitions as, in director Damien M. Jones’ phrase, "a hedge against insufficient quality," have also been expunged from cyberspace. How satisfyingly karmic.
Speaking of Jones, his Fractalus site also appears to be going or gone. Surfing there brings up an expired security certificate. Proceed at your own risk.
Now what was I saying before noting that BMFAC and Jones have gone off the grid? Oh. Yes. That…
Darth Vader Skywalker Hellwalker by Elisa Insua
…That BMFAC’s rules restricted entries to works created using fractal generating software — and, let’s nostalgically recall, primarily Ultra Fractal if one wished to better the odds of being accepted. These limitations, however, did all of us a disservice by suggesting that fractal art was circumscribed to software manipulation and sacrosanct parameter files. Unfortunately, to the sensibilities of the greater fine arts community, such boundaries relegated fractal art to a technical manufacturing rather than an artistic creation.
And it’s not like we didn’t try to warn you that it was in your best interests to expand your cultural horizons. Tim first explained the out-of-the-box concept of Phase Two fractal art in 2009 and noted that
Phase Two fractal art focuses on the image and not how it was made. Perhaps in Phase Two fractal art the word “fractal” is no longer relevant because the word fractal only has meaning if the artwork exhibits a fractal appearance. Images made from details of fractals or images processed with filters are really derivative works and whether one wants to call them fractal art is really a pointless matter and unresolvable argument. And Phase Two artists don’t care anyway how an image was made. Whether it has that parameter file pedigree or not isn’t as important as whether or not it’s…
Art. Yes, that’s where I see fractal art going. Taking an artistic approach and evaluating the image rather than the software that makes it, is an instinctive next step. It’s instinctive I think because that’s how art has always been viewed and evaluated. No serious critic ever categorized oil paintings by what kind of paint brushes they were made with or whether they were painted by men or women.
BMFAC’s regulations, of course, rejected such thinking as "not uniquely fractal" even though
Skull with Cigarette by Chris Jordan
Skull with Cigarette (Detail) by Chris Jordan
Skull with Cigarette (More Detail) by Chris Jordan
If fractal art is art that has fractal characteristics like recursion and self-similarity, then the traditional mediums of the fine arts can be used for our genre just as easily as software. In fact, one could build the case that a true exhibition of fractal art would showcase art made using a variety of self-expressive tools — including painting, sculpture, ceramics, graphic design, and other recognized mediums. Software utilizing fractal algorithms to generate images would still be included, of course, but would merely be another component in the artistic arsenal.
and, of course, the art works that appear in this post illustrate that very premise.
Need to Sleep by Erdal Inci
So dig this big crux. Stop calling yourself a fractal artist — unless you enjoy having the art world inherently viewing your work as just craft and reflexively judging you as a mere technician.
Your mantra should be: Less fractal. More art.
It’s not what the software can do. It’s what you can do beyond the constraints of the software.
He Xie by Ai WeiWei
If motivated, you can make the jump from craft to art. Tim showed you multiple methods for unbinding your fractal ties and liberating your inner artist earlier on OT in his "synthetic aesthetic" series — which, frankly, I consider the echt fractal manifesto. Tim concludes his series by examining the surrealists and ends with a suggestion I have been following for sixteen years:
The surrealists showed there’s artistic potential in the graphical synthesis of things like smoke, chopped up images, and scratched up canvases. Today’s photoshop filters and the persistent experimentation with cheap graphical effects continue the exploration of that vast, rut-less wilderness.
Bingo. The fractal had to be destroyed in order to save it…
from Clourant by Cassandra Warner and Jeremy Floto
None of the artists featured in today’s post refer to themselves as a "fractal artist." Yet, I’d argue that at least some of their art contains discernible fractal forms and/or properties.
If they don’t want to be reigned in and be pigeonholed by one aspect of their work, then why do you?
From the New World by Yang Yongliang
From the New World (Detail) by Yang Yongliang
Maybe you should stop calling yourself a "fractal artist." Maybe you should quit cramping your style and limiting your options. Don’t make it so easy for others to dismiss you as a technician who relies on the crutch of mathematical molds to stamp out mechanical reproductions.
Art does not have to be an adjective-noun combination. And neither do you.