Diaries 2

Now, surely, there is world peace and all fractalists live in harmony.

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"

Dear Diary,

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.

Back in June, Tim rooted out this question by Madman posed on a Fractal Forum thread:

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 copyrightFair Use.  Protecting your intellectual propertyMaking printsMaking 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.

Your Penpal


Dear Diary,

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?

Your Penpal


* with apologies to the Beatles. ** with apologies to Abraham Lincoln.  ***with apologies to the Obama campaign.

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10 thoughts on “Diaries 2

  1. “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.”

    Would you like photos of the exhibit or photos of the catalogues that were given out to people? Both can be provided. I’d be happy to provide either if it will put a stop the gross misinformation you are peddling.

    You guys have some good stuff to say, but you keep peppering it with this kind of thing. Why?

  2. “Would you like photos of the exhibit or photos of the catalogues that were given out to people?”

    Yes, I would. Just make sure to show me something I haven’t already seen — something *concrete* from the August 2010 ICM exhibit. I’ve seen the general brochure that was sent to winners before the show opened in Spain, and I’ve seen the photos and videos of the exhibits in Spain. I’ve also read a review of the exhibit in Argentina. In fact, all of this information has already been posted with links on Orbit Trap. So, is the proof you can provide both pertaining to the India show and something other than what OT has already presented?

    Please, anyone, send me something *specific* about the flagship BMFAC exhibition in India, and be sure to provide a working link. Because I have questions, too. Like: Should both the main BMFAC site and the 2010 ICM page have a complete news blackout about the exhibition? Why? Like: If you do have such information, Chris, is it in the best PR interests of the competition that anyone anywhere on the Internet has to hear about the main BMFAC show from you? Why?

    This isn’t about proving me wrong. Do it. Then maybe you and others will finally get around to asking the question I’m really asking here: Why are the contest’s organizers so totally tight-lipped when it comes to the India stop on the tour? It seems to me that such an information vacuum works against that ‘fractal art is breaking through to broader art communities and the general populace thing’ that I referenced in this post.

  3. Yes, they would be photo’s from the ICM exhibit in Hyperabad. Yes, It would be a photo of the accompanying catalogue.

    And to answer your question. The fact that my art was seen by some of the most prominent mathematicians in the world, seems to pale in comparison to a secondary link being posted on a web. You’d be the first person I have come across to feel that wasn’t enough for people.

    In a previous posting here on OT, you point out that Professor Rajat Tandon was a panel member on BMFAC 2009. If you go to the ICM 2010 webpage, under contact information, guess who is listed as the primary contact.

    Did you even bother to email anyone involved with the ICM to confirm your suspicions before making this post? Or was Prof. Randon another person you’ve inadvertantly insulted and are now too afraid to contact?

  4. Unfortunately, Chris, you’re still missing the big picture. I saw Professor Tandon’s listing, and I’m not “afraid” to contact him. The point is why should I have to go to the trouble of asking him (or anyone, including you) just to find out one speck of information about the principal BMFAC exhibition? Why aren’t the organizers actively, even aggressively promoting the main show as they did (to some extent) with the smaller shows in Spain? There is nothing anywhere on the ICM site, including Tandon’s contact page, about BMFAC at all.

    If the BMFAC 2010 main exhibition is truly going to make cultural strides into larger artistic communities and is indeed the “sterling” effort Dave Makin implies, wouldn’t it be nice if a population group outside of the few contest winners actually knew something about how the whole thing went down? That is the crux of my post that you seem unwilling to address.

    And I wonder if all of the BMFAC winners are as pleased as you that their artistic achievement was buried in a virtual news blackout. I guess you’ll have to take the contest director’s word that your work was seen by prominent mathematicians, just as the rest of us — who couldn’t afford a trip to India and naively presumed that someone affiliated with BMFAC would make at least a minimal effort to promote the exhibit online — will just have to assume the exhibition did some actual exhibiting.

    By the way, I wrote a post here


    you might find interesting about why it’s a silly notion to have a fractal art exhibition that limits its audience to mathematicians only. Such a concept makes no more sense than having a fractal art show with an audience restricted to visual artists who can only study texts of fractal parameter files.

    Please feel free to digitize your proof and put up a link in this thread. Or, and this goes for any of the BMFAC winners since you appear to be the only ones in BMFAC’s privileged PR demographic, send me digital copies of exhibition photos or brochures from India and I’ll post them. After all, media attention about the exhibition on Orbit Trap is better than what you currently have on the Internet: Nothing.

  5. I’m one of the winners of that competition too, and yes I find it strange that there wasn’t much PR effort, but as Chris is probably about to show you, we were provided with the catalogue and photos from the exhibition, so you can at least be sure that it took place. Personally, publicity isn’t my primary concern, but for someone who apparently is concerned this much about it (and for good reasons too I’m sure), I don’t think your posts on Orbit Trap is the best way to get answers – you could easily ask one of the organizers by e-mail and I’m sure you’d get a decent answer. If not, that’s when you start whining publicly how you weren’t explicitly informed of the proceedings of the contest – not that that’s a responsibility of the organizers, but then it would be a valid concern if they ignore your questions as to why. If you actually want the answer to why the exhibition wasn’t publicized, the organizers would be the only ones who have the answer. Asking this question to the public will not get you answers and leaves you looking like you have other intentions in doing so.
    And I have to add, because you have a history of assuming that the winners of the contest have any incentive to defend the organizers, that I’m not writing this to defend the organization and I would very much appreciate that you don’t base your response on me being among the winners.

  6. Actually, the university that my wife attends, sent professors to the congress, and in doing so, saw my work, and contacted my wife about it.

    So that is one strike against your logic.

    Esin sum’s up what I was trying to say nicely about being proactive, and why I asked the initial question I did.

    The reason there was little to no PR about the event is simple, if you take the time to think about it from a marketing standpoint. This was not an event that someone could walk in off the street to attend. Would you spend time and money marketing an event to people who could not attend said event? Who would you market too if your target audience is already showing up?

    You seem to be quite aware of the event in Spain. Judging by online videos, it looked to have been open to the public. In light of this, I find it illogical to fault the BMFAC for holding “The” event in blackout environment, when there were actually two. One being open to the public, and one not.
    You seem to be quite aware of who won, that the event took place, and have that there are internet resources to support it. Your concerns were convered with the exhibit in Bilbao.

    I am trying to be fair here, but it would seem your upset over nothing.

  7. Apparently, no one is going to address the central question of my post. Dave Makin asserts the BMFAC organizers are doing “sterling work” getting fractal art into the “art world” and the “general public.” But how can this be true when the contest directors have apparently limited their publicity to the very narrow circle of the competition’s winners? There has been no organized publicity campaign whatsoever for the exhibition; the main BMFAC site has not been updated since the winners were announced in 2009. Even Chris, one of the contest winners, apparently doesn’t know that there were actually three exhibitions before the alleged main event in India — two in Spain and one in Argentina. In fact, the only reason most people know about the exhibition at all (like the video Chris mentions) is because Orbit Trap trudged through the catacombs of Google, found reference bits, and posted links to them.

    The more OT is criticized for not having asked for information, the more it begs the question as to why anyone has to ask in the first place.

    The matter at hand is quite simple. If the contest really hopes to bring fractal art to a broader audience, as its supporters claim, then is it unreasonable to ask why it isn’t doing some kind of centralized publicity? If its only doling out photos and videos and brochures to the competition’s winners, is this really “sterling work”? No, it’s just a private party that does nothing to advance the cause of our discipline.

    In fact, I’m starting to get a king-and-his-court vibe about this whole business. I think this remark from Lord Chris best captures the royal tone:

    “The fact that my art was seen by some of the most prominent mathematicians in the world, seems to pale in comparison to a secondary link being posted on a web. You’d be the first person I have come across to feel that wasn’t enough for people.”

    By “people” I assume Lord Chris means you and I, dear readers — mere common folk not privy to the grand affairs taking place at court. Such is not business fit for the rabble. If only I’d followed Lady Esin’s advice and requested an audience with His Majesty, all would be well in our fair land. Although His Highness has repeatedly refused such a request in the past, surely this time His Majesty would have stopped his closed-curtained carriage with its wheels glistening with the blood of village children. Even though I am low birth, He surely would have deigned to address my inquiry as he tossed a few coins in the general direction of the ragtag riffraff. Perhaps His Majesty would even have laid His hands upon me and cured my long affliction of mental illness that has me asking about court affairs that are so clearly beneath my station in life. Alas, before God and King, I recant and heretofore apologize for seeking ocular proof of the court’s grandest masque. I humbly beseech my most gracious Lords and Ladies that one of you winning courtiers will pause in your swan-feasting and grace your humble servant instead with a link to a digital photograph of a cake. Only thus can we, your most undeserving subjects, study the imperial artifact as we imagine the grandeur of the court and dream of what it must be like to bask in His Majesty’s fullness.

  8. It’s only by selling yourself short that you read such undertones. I actually meant that given what I was, it would be rude to demand more. I am happy with what I have received. You wouldn’t be, and that is sad.

    If you want to be privy to the events at the congress, earn it. Get a math degree and earn it. Don’t sit her whining because you aren’t privy to the information. Until then, you are, as you put it, one of the “common people”.

    I don’t expect to be invited to these without earning it. You shouldn’t either. That’s life.

    Signing off,
    “Lord Chris”

  9. And of course, you would disregard that last sentence I put in my post. I’m merely voicing my opinion just like you are, and am in no way affiliated with whatever high court you’re imagining. If the central point of the initial post was that David Makin was wrong and that organizers aren’t doing a great job getting fractal art out to the public, I agree, he’s wrong, the works did not reach too wide an audience to merit such phrase, even though it did reach a wider audience than it would if it stayed on the web. What I did not realize was that the central point of your post could actually be picking on one person’s views posted on a forum. I was just addressing the actual issue behind it and saying that there are more constructive ways of dealing with this lack of publicity. While I optimistically assume that you hope to “advance the cause of our discipline”, I think your ways fail to serve that purpose. Uncalled-for mockery of any and all views that even slightly disagree with you will not get the issue solved.

  10. Just a brief comment as I’m a little too busy at the moment to write a long answer.

    As you have quoted me and taken a copy of the poster from my blog for the competition, I feel I need to clarify a few things.

    I made the comment regarding electronic devices, (meaning cell phones and cameras) because we were made aware by one of the organisers that these were not going to be allowed in the venue. I have quite a strong following on my blog and as you are well aware I kept my readers updated as to where the exhibition was going to be and had posted pictures from the Spanish exhibition previously and did not want my readers to think the video footage I posted was from India or wonder why there were no pictures of the exhibition in India. Media were of course allowed in the venue, if you look at the ICM website you will see the accreditation requirements but you have to remember media always look for the best story to cover for their news organisation.

    India is a dangerous country, terrorism is a real threat and so it is not as strange as you think to have tight security measures in place with many prominent people attending the conference, including the President of India.

    In December, I received two catalogues, one from the exhibition in Spain and one from the exhibition in India. I also received via e-mail, as would have all other winners in the competition, a few photos of the exhibition in India. There is no untoward reason why I haven’t posted the photo of my art on my blog, the photo of my art just isn’t as good as the other exhibition photos and I felt that it was old news by December anyway.

    At the end of the day it is the responsibility of the organisers, not me, to post photographs and updates about the competition to the official competition website.

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