Chaos. Infinity. Immortality. The idea that there is something beyond what we know, something larger than our existence, yet perhaps something as simple as a single string of code. These concepts fascinate me and provide the foundation of my passion for fractals.
Fractals are, to put it simply, a plotted out mathematical equation that infinitely repeats. In the era of technology, programs have been created that allow us to finally test theories that before could only be “guesstimated” at by the likes of mathematicians such as Gaston Julia. You see, the numbers have always been there. The mathematics of fractals has always been with us, we just haven't been able to process it until the computer era. Yet there are some who think, “I saw this great fractal. I rendered it and here it is, my fractal!” My opinion is that even at the completely rendered stage, the fractal is not owned. It’s the world’s fractal geometry. The explorer just found it! A photographer does not exclaim, “I saw this great forest of trees on a mountain. I took a picture of it, and here it is, my forest of trees on my mountain!” In the same way, I refuse to claim the numbers or the math. They’ve existed all along; it is up to us to reveal their beauty.
Now that I’ve expounded on this idea somewhat, you might understand the dilemma I have with fractal art. When does a fractal fall under ownership? Is it the application of scripts chosen by the artist? Is it an artist’s choice in gradient? Is it the moment a title has been slapped on it? At what point in the fractal exploration process can one call the fractal truly their own? This question is always with me and I believe that is why I insist on altering a fractal render in some way to make it truly mine. That's the bottom line for me, I guess — unless I have manipulated the rendered fractal image in order to make it my own artistic statement, I do not feel right putting my name on it.
My theory is that enlightenment can be obtained through the introspective exploration of fractals. What can be truer than the fundamentals of mathematics? We know that we can add and multiply, subtract and divide for infinity; aren’t these the basic fundamental laws that hold reality as we know it together at the seams? Philosopher, Alan Watts, once said that the fundamental, ultimate mystery — the only thing you need to know to understand the deepest metaphysical secrets — is this: that for every outside there is an inside and for every inside there is an outside, and although they are different, they go together. We can see those very principles of polarity at work in fractal mathematics, positives and negatives work together, not in opposition or conflict, but a united whole. The simplicity of this balance inspires me when creating fractals. Through studying and exploring different avenues, by making changes in perspectives or magnification digitally, we can better comprehend our state of existence in a physical world in which the concept of infinity can be explained, yet exist only in theory, never actualized. Some theorists question the existence of infinity. After all, we can’t prove that it does exist because it is completely unobtainable to us as individuals. But maybe through generations and generations of individuals, it can be realized, and if not through humankind, through some other organism, perhaps an offshoot.
Think of it this way, a Mandelbrot fractal contains smaller generations of self-similar Mandelbrot patterns, but the entire lot is considered one entity, the Mandelbrot set. Isn’t it also true of humanity? In this way, fractals have caused me to open my eyes to the oneness of the human race. Will we, as a race continue forever in the infinite fractal loop? Things evolve, mutate, meld, we learn and expand, continuing to form near replicas of ourselves from generation to generation (well, unless we blow ourselves up, of course, but that’s another subject entirely). In the end, though we are all unique in our individuality — we are all a part of the same entity — the human race. The entire universe is a three-dimensional fractal that has had billions of years to sort itself out into matter and anti-matter.
On a lighter note, in the interest of the progression of the human race and fractal art et al. I never worry about giving away fractal parameters or resources that I use myself. I know that every artist will come up with something unique if given the same starting point. I’m not really giving something away. Remember, it wasn’t truly mine to begin with. I am sharing with the world what I find beautiful and occasionally I try to make a statement or two. Isn’t this the true artist’s nature? I firmly believe that by engaging in the free sharing of information, knowledge and expertise, a community can grow collectively by leaps and bounds. We see this happening already in our Apophysis community at deviantArt. Multiply this by infinity, and you might get a glimpse of how quickly humanity could progress in a very short time if only everyone engaged in these activities!
Before closing, it’s important to point out that Apophysis is Open Source software and the scripts are written for the program and given to the community of fractal artists freely by their authors. Artists encouraging others to explore infinity… that is the zen of fractal art.
Originally published: Sun 02 Apr 2006 11:14 PM EDT