Fractal art theorizing

Categories Tiera-Zon

fractal art theorizing

As I go about updating this website, I’ve also been reviewing my opinions about fractals and art since I started to consciously regard this hobby as an artistic expression. I have been reconsidering what I said in my old writings, and revisiting the judgment of other people involved in this field. All in all, it seems no new creative ideas have emerged, though: in all appearances, the fractal world, like myself, came to a standstill in 2007. New programs emerged, for sure; known ones were updated, as was to be expected, and with them came along the distinctive forms users have popularized, that make you believe that those are the only styles these generators are able to produce (yes, people, not the software, are responsible for that limited impression). But almost all documents available still cite Kerry Mitchell’s 1999 “Fractal Art Manifesto” as the sacred scroll to define the genre. Either nobody else has said anything of value after that (and the worth of that prominence has been argued in numerous occasions), or the authors of subsequent articles used that declaration of intention to outline what “fractal art” is as –or even as sole– reference (the Wikipedia article about the subject, for example, comes to mind). That’s not bad in itself, but I thought that in 20 years (ten of my absent) some new references might have emerged; it seems not.

Orbit Trap, a blog about fractal art (that’s its tagline), has been the most consistent publication (even given its recurrent intermissions) expressing the for and against viewpoints on fractals as artworks and other related matters. Its contributors, Tim Hodkinson and Terry Wright, have been the –almost– only public voices after 2006 saying something worth discussing. Their usually divergent opinions, it seems, caused some heated debates within the community, as is evident from the replies left on their postings and their own reactions to those that came to refute their musings. I’ve been catching up with their provocative posts –yes, quite late, I know–, and though I may not concur with some authors and commenters’ postulates (that amalgam of varying stances is what makes it worth), the reading has been utterly gratifying. Unfortunately, the blog is currently undergoing one of those periods of remission and hasn’t seen a post for the past six months.

The original idea behind the founding of Orbit Trap was to gather a group of fractal devotees and collect their views, intending to foster discussions to enlighten the still nascent expression of fractals as a category of digital art in its own right. Art was supposed to mature there, but passions and sometimes loyalties took precedence over the “greater good,” and eventually human nature broke the spell of inception and dissolved what was planned and implicitly agreed upon. And worse still: nothing has emerged to replace or counter it.

My guess is the people rendering fractal pictures are mostly centered on that activity, and not precisely interested in theorizing about what they’re doing –myself among the guilty. In my case, I still think, after all these years, that I’m not in the capacity to do so: I know too little of the mathematics underlying fractals and of art as a subject matter as to solidly embark in lecturing anyone about what I do and its value as a creative expression. Yet, it’s clear it rests upon our shoulders to authenticate our imagery if we really want to position fractal abstraction within the recognized human-made arts.