Sunday, December 23, 2007

Burning down/out ?

The fall semester is over, hooray. I started this term with the idea that I would try to incorporate some fractals into the things I was doing at school, and did, in some small ways, succeed at this. But somehow I'm still unhappy about the whole question of fractals, and I still haven't quite put my finger on why.

They do always have a certain sameness, and that's part of my dissatisfaction. But I think the real difficulty is larger and wider-ranging and also more nebulous than the simple fact of fractals being computer-generated and therefore predictable. There's the question of what they mean. Are they abstract? Well, not exactly. They're a completely accurate picture of a very complicated and tedious bit of math. Even if I were to post-process the original image, all the filters are still algorithmic in nature, so the end product is a sort of insanely complicated and glorified graph. These I find pleasing (sometimes), but they're tough to explain to an audience of math-phobic or math-bored artists, or to the general public.

Then there's the larger question of whether art even has to mean something. I don't have a good answer for that one. Not even a definite personal philosophy, really. I could argue it either way.

A lot of the fractals I make are pretty, too. Hell, a lot of the non-fractal art I make is pretty. One of my final critiques this semester was that the installation I'd made looked like it could be a Christmas decoration. Pretty still seems to be a bad word in the current art scene. Or maybe it's just at my school. In any case, it leaves me at a certain disadvantage. I'm not much interested in the sentimental kinds of prettiness associated with, say, Disney or Hallmark, but I definitely prefer harmonious color combinations to harsh jarring ones. I like subtlety. I'd rather be calmed or inspired by art than confronted with hostility. And all of that stuff shows up in the things I make. I hope for strength in my work, but not brute force.

Now that I think about it, maybe it's the brute force aspect of fractals I do dislike. All those calculations are right there in your face, reminding you that you're not a computer or rendering engine, but just another human being trying to make sense of the world.

For the Solstice, I made a cake shaped like a Yule log. Tonight, I've made a fractal that looks like the burnt remains.


I'm almost tempted to call my semester's experiment a failure, and decide that I'm just done with fractals. Let them go, let them be simply a part of my past. But maybe there's something more I need to try. I will have to consider the possibilities, before the new semester starts.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Mechanical people parts, for reasons of my own

Just a more-or-less abstract, to give my brain a break. School has two weeks to go, and I'm pretty much completely burned out by now.

The Robot's Spine

Five layers, very much in my usual style, trying no experiments, breaking no new ground. And hopefully, not needing to brace myself for any critiques.