Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Tim's Guide to the Fractal Community: a Response to Sherlock Fractal

Terry, much of your discussion revolves around the notion and concept of a fractal art community.  I need to address this first because I believe that will clarify this discussion immensely because this community thing complicates everything else.

There is no fractal art community.

There is no fractal art community; not in either a formal or practical sense.  What might, in the minds of some, pass for a fractal community is in my analysis nothing more than a few groups of like-minded people gathered around:
1) Ultra Fractal software;
2) Fractal Universe Calendar;
3) Various networks of friends at the online art portals, Renderosity and Deviant Art (i.e. "Fractalbook")
4) Two dormant, but still plugged-in, web-rings
5) The occasional, courageous person who starts up a new fractal forum

Everyone else left over who has an association with fractal art belongs to primarily:
1) a few individual programmers (some active, some retired)
2) about a hundred individual artists (personal websites, web-ring members)

The fractal art world is a very small and fragmented bunch of people and programs.  I don't think that's a "community".  The few clusters that I've mentioned have given very little shape or direction to what is called "fractal art", a genre, or much larger entitiy, which I would say exists merely as a descriptive label (art made with fractals).  What these groups are doing through their association is developing one or two very casually defined styles by pursuing what interests them and looking at what each other is doing.  If they appear to be rejecting photoshop filtering transformations or artwork which expresses themes from real life or socio-political ideas, I think it's largely because:
1) It doesn't interest them
2) It's hard to do with fractal imagery, post-processed or not

Maybe in the past, in the old days when fractal programming was developing and people used newsgroups to communicate, there may have been something resembling a community that had an identifiable identity and coherent standards, but that was before my time, and currently I don't see anything like that.

I think fractal art of any style or school of thought will be evaluated by it's audience in the same way that any other type of art is judged: composition; expression; color; style; overall impression; message -- the sort of things you're advocating.  Fractal artists may have a unique perspective on their art but I don't think their audience will.  Boring art is a self-limiting disease, whereas exciting new styles attract attention and recruit new followers and more growth.

You talked about getting rid of the idea that fractal art is this or fractal art is that -- the "this" or "that".  I think that is happening, but the result is that fractal art is evolving into a number of unrelated styles -- all fractal art, that is, art with fractals -- but only nominally related; a rather weak association.

There is a distinct Ultra Fractal style (although not all Ultra Fractal artists exhibit it) that incorporates layering techniques and is best seen in the Benoit Mandelbrot Fractal Art Contest selections.

I prefer a more classical style that depends on the algorithms for effect and is primarily made in single layer programs but can benefit from some graphical effects which enhance the algorithmic imagery.  I am also somewhat of a lazy artist too.

What you do Terry, is yet another style of fractal art that expresses themes and ideas in the way that traditional artwork made by hand does.

I think fractal art as a genre is becoming as meaningless a label as say, silkscreen art is.  Andy Warhol did a lot of work using silk-screening, but that doesn't mean him and people who make t-shirts with animal cartoons on them have very much in common as artists.  "Fractal" describes what we all do less and less and is becoming more of a trivial connection than a core attribute.  A disintegrating community, if there is, in fact, one at all.

I think fractal art is not and can not be defined by any one person or group, but rather is defined by the artwork that is actually being made and exhibited; and that artwork, and the people who make it, I believe are diverging and fragmenting, not converging or solidifying.


Blogger Kerry Mitchell said...

Hi Tim,

I sense a bit of sadness in your post, but I'm willing to consider that I may be projecting.

I do think that there is a fractal art community, but one held together more by process/tool than by ideas. As tools and techniques mature, it may be reasonable to expect more fragmentation--it was easy to be more cohesive when there were fewer of us using one program and we were all geeks. :-)

Should there be a more cohesive fractal art community, one based on philosophy, concepts, and/or standard of practice? To me, that relates to the notion of a "digital aesthetic" (or, "fractal aesthetic"). Is there something special about fractal art as art? Are there guidelines that tend to result in better fractal art, separate from those for general visual art? I'm pretty sure that it's too soon to tell, but I hope fractal art stays around long enough for some to develop.

2/26/2009 1:59 PM

Blogger Tim said...

Sadness? Maybe, you're right. But I think that I now have a clearer perspective on the social/community aspects of the fractal world and because of that I feel less judgmental about the artistic differences among "the clusters" but a the same time, ironically, more relaxed about commenting on them. Weird.

I would say there's no special aesthetic for digital or fractal art. It's all visual. And once it's printed out, framed and hung on the wall, there's nothing digital about it at all anymore.

Similarly, once a non-digital work is scanned and viewed on a monitor, there's nothing "analog" about it either. It's all just pixels.

2/26/2009 2:33 PM


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