Still somehow inspired by the previous post about the misunderstanding of what a fractal is and the wrong use of the word fractal and some stuff I read at Orbit Trap, I remembered another thing that bothers me (here comes another long rant).

Also while checking for Google links, I noticed that a lot of the current examples of fractals seem to be now related to Apophysis and its own kind of fractal, the “flame” fractals. OK, they are still fractals, but what happened to the “classic” images of Mandelbrots and Julias (or Newtons or IFs, and so many others)?

The easyness of use of Apophysis is kind of responsible for this I guess (not that it’s a bad thing), and also this new generation of computer users that are more used to point and click and get faster results than to fiddle with command line controls or weird looking windows and forms. Many of the old-school fractal generators, those that concentrate more in the scientific more than in the graphical aspects of a fractal, are quite hard to understand and use. A good example is Fractint. It’s an amazing fractal creating tool, but it’s quite hard to be deciphered, if you want to get past its basic images and find where the real fun is. Some of its features are meant to be used with really old computers (like “enabling a co-processor”… who needs that?) and these extras kind of clutter and deviate the learning curve of the software to a new user. With Apophysis, you can just “point and click” and with some luck you can get some decent images without too much tweaking or understanding what should be changed to make it look a little better. Install some plugins and there you go, some quite nice images in seconds!

One thing that I’ve noticed the most when I started in the fractal world was that everything that was made with the help of a computer – and help is really the key word here –  was placed in the same bag labelled “digital art”, and a wrong idea was passed along that there is no involvement whatsoever from the “digital artists”, therefore… there couldn’t be art without an artist, so it was not a valid form of art. And a computer isn’t an artist, it’s a machine, and the work was done by the computer. This is not entirely true, though. A computer needs you, the artist, to make these images.

At Orbit Trap they also talk about this in another way, they seem to be a bit upset with the fact that there is a lot of fractal art around nowadays – art that uses fractals in some way, which is actually good – but a few images of fractals, images that despite not having being made with whatever fractal software is the latest trend neither were retouched or enhanced with Phothoshop neither are popular at Deviant, also are art, without the need to be enhanced by anything else to prove anything or stand out. Pretty images that beside (and despite) having a certain artistical meaning, are also “pure” fractals, and  these are part of the more classical kind of fractal art you will ever find and are as good looking as any of these new and modern Apophysis images.

It seems to me that at Orbit Trap they miss the chaotic aspect of the “old-school” fractals in these newer images (to which I agree, up to a certain point), everything gets so predictable when you have so many available tools to control your final results. To control this result in a software that is oriented just to create fractals is infinitely more complicated than anywhere else. Chaos doesn’t mean necessarily randomness (and vice-versa, although both can happen together), and it’s possible as I’ve said before to make a batch of images in Apophysis without any additional effort or involvement from the artist, and this makes a lot of difference in my opinion between things like creating a fractal and creating a fractal that is also an artistical element, an artwork.

Even the slightest change in a colour shade for example already implies an artistical involvement, it’s not just the machine working and making “art” on its own. This is what makes the difference. At the same time, using this same way of thinking I think I should say that, to me at least,  it doesn’t need to be “complicated” or take years to be finished to be considered art neither it needs to be made just with Assembly command lines to be considered a fractal. You don’t have to spend hours retouching and fine-tuning your favourite fractals for them to be considered art, though (although at times these adjustments are just part of the fun – holes need to be covered, colours need to be changed, etc.). It’s not because it was made in a DOS software that it’s not enjoyable. It’s not because it was retouched in Photoshop that it’s not art (or that it’s not a fractal anymore – it still is, or was at least depending on how far it’s modified by the touch-ups). It doesn’t need to have 100 layers in Photoshop (or in UF) either to look “acceptable”. Art is just art, you’ll know when you find it or make your own without this “mass production” feel.

The vast majority of these newer images look to me like that they never had any kind of involvement, except for picking up these that call your attention faster in that batch – the so called “eye-candy” images. With that, the quality gets lowered not because these mass-produced and mechanically made images don’t have some quality (they do, occasionally), but because thousands of similar looking images appear everywhere, with hundreds of  these now called “artists” posting these images in their blogs or at Deviant.

With this easiness of use, the interest in using the more complicated fractal generators was a bit lost (they aren’t complicated, perhaps a little less user-friendly until you learn how they work) and also it was lost the ability to make fractal (and fractal art) from their basics, by altering some parameters of the formulas and understanding what these mean even if it’s just visually (and therefore, artistically) and not in a mathematical sense.

With all that, the old fractals are starting to disappear, or at least are less seen, mostly related to art. You barely see something that calls itself fractal art that uses Mandelbrots, Julias, Newtons, IFs… these images seem to appear more often when they are needed to illustrate some fractal/geometry concept than when in an artistical context. It’s a pity, because there still a lot to get from these old friends.

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