Familiar places

Coastlines are different, but water is the same.

Download parameter file coastal.xpf

I was at a lakeside park here in Toronto once. The lake was big, you couldn’t see the other shore.

I saw people standing and staring out into the lake. There’s not much out there, the occasional boat, and like I said, you can’t see the other shore, just the watery horizon.

The park is near a place in the city where refugee claimants are often temporarily housed in seedy motels. The park would be a very pleasant diversion.

Of course, half the city is from somewhere other than Canada: it’s actually the most multi-cultural place on earth.

I observe all sorts of foreign customs and practices each day here, while shopping, driving or just looking out the window. There’s no need to go travelling, everybody’s here.

But all these people standing on the shore and quietly staring out into the distance was something new.

I started to do it too, wondering if there was something out there after all. And there was.

It was a place from childhood, from back home, a familiar place. The land they stood on was new, but that blue horizon was still the same and for a while it was nice to look at that old friend.

January 17, 2006

Fractal Noir

Wisdom brightens a man’s face and changes its hard appearance

Download parameter file pillar1.xpf

I like Film Noir, it’s my favorite.

What is Film Noir? I’ve never looked for a definition, but here’s a few thoughts.

Film Noir is the part left out of all those other movies. The heavy husk that restores wholeness, like bran and wheat germ does to white flour.

It’s the hidden half of the equation that explains our futile reasoning.

It’s the camera turned on the audience before they have a chance to act.

Download parameter file salty.xpf

Film breaks free from the earth and then looks downward,

not really film at all,


He planted something on the canvas, and it grew up through the movie screen.

Film of the Spanish shadow. Cloud of Dali.

They call it noir, “black,” or dark, but that darkness is just the shadows, the other side of daylight, the boundary of brighter things, just as night is the shore that day departs from.

January 15, 2006

Taxonomy of Art

Not everyone shares my obsession with sorting things: books, firewood, artwork…

Download parameter file ring.xpf

Maybe it’s pointless, but every now and then I like to stop and sort the art world into different compartments. Perhaps it’s a disorder.

Like a puzzle, or some brain teaser game, it’s just for fun, a break from doing serious things.

Download parameter file ring2.xpf

Or is it?

Maybe it’s some strange, mythical, apocalyptic thing. Maybe when the essential categories of art have been discovered and recorded…

The whole universe will stop.

And instantly roll up like a spring-loaded blind, revealing a new vista of wonders and intrigue.

Are there essential forms from which all visual phenomena is contructed, the atoms of art? An underlying architecture that can be seen if you look closely enough?

Download parameter file ring3.xpf

Maybe there isn’t. Maybe art is primarily subjective and we need to look at the subject rather than the object, in this case the viewers rather than the art itself.

Well, anyhow, the logical conclusion of a matter can be its own reward. Like untying an old knot or finding out what’s making that dripping noise in the basement.

January 13, 2006

Golden haze

Busted Art: The algorithm of destuction.

Download parameter file fuzzyswirl01.loo

Settle down, this is a serious discussion about algorithmic art, art made from mechanical activity.

Or maybe that’s not the common definition. I’ve simplified things.

Anyhow, have you ever come across a fragment of something, like a rock or broken piece of glass, brick, porcelain, or whatever, that looked more interesting than the original object?

Well, on second thought, maybe that’s a pretty wierd question. But I have noticed that smashing things can create interesting fragments.

The breaking pattern is probably determined by the way the object is hit and influenced by the structure of the material the object is made of. In other words, it’s not something you control or direct, but something you merely initiate.

The end result is unpredictable but characteristic of the process that made it.

Framing up a detail of a fractal image is a type of busting, smashing or fragmenting process. Similarly, it often looks better than the larger original.

Sometimes I’ve mistakenly zoomed out, or accidently clicked somewhere and zoomed in, and was surprised at how good the resulting image, made unintentionally, looked.

Take a camera, set the timer on it for something short, like one second, and throw it into the air with a spin. What will the picture be?

Okay, probably junk, but it helps you to think outside the box. The key to making new discoveries is doing what we haven’t done before.

Grasshopper! Envy the fragment and search for it. It is worth more than all the pieces put together.

January 11, 2006


When the eye is old
When the eye is tired
Of searching and finding nothing
It sits down to rest
And sees wonders on the ground.

Download parameter file candystick01.loo


Who tells it where to look or how to see?

Download parameter file candystick02.loo


Who says to their eye, “Not there, look only here.”

Download parameter file candystick03.loo


When does it stop paying attention and refuse to blink?

Download parameter file candystick04.loo


Even closed, the eye looks deeply into the eyelid.

Download parameter file candystick05.loo


Dreaming, the eyes are wildly awake,.

Download parameter file candystick06.loo


In death, the eyes stay open, but we know that they are dead.

January 10, 2006

Fractal Room and Board

Common things are not necessarily easy to make.

Download parameter file watermandel01.loo

A while ago, someone who plays the guitar told me that because we see so many people playing the guitar in movies and on television, most people think it’s easy.

In other words, because it’s common, we assume it’s easy, or simple.

I think the same goes for just about everything else in our culture: Art, Music, Writing, Sports, Languages, Martial Arts, Photography, Knitting, Woodworking, etc…

We see so much talented stuff around, we think it’s easy to do those things.

Just try standing on a surf board without falling off. On TV they make it look so easy. Skateboarding, same thing.

I forgot singing, or acting. One high school musical or play will teach the most important lesson of all: it’s not easy.

Fractals are not quite the same. They are easy to make.

It’s like photography, something else which looks easy, you just need the equipment. A good photograph however, is another matter. That requires things you can’t buy.

There was a time when any fractal image was exciting to look at and talk about. There was also a time when any photographic image was exciting to look at and would inspire wondrous comments.

Yep. The times they are a’changin.

Fractals are a dime a dozen now. They’ve got to earn their own keep. They can’t expect to go on much longer impressing people with their mathematical pedigree and living like royal pets in an art gallery.

They’re going to have to work like everyone else. That means rolling up their sleeves and making themselves useful by helping out with advertisements; cheap packaging; royalty-free clip art; gumball machines; and cheesy animated email gifs.

January 8, 2006

Crouching Tiger, Fuzzy Fractal

Download parameter file fuzzy.loo

What’s got three heads and makes movies? Whoever made the movie Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

First head: Jean Cocteau. The night-time fight scenes, or pursuit scenes between what’s her name and the other woman. They could be spliced right into Black Orpheus and you’d never know.

Second head: Sergio Leone. This is more complicated. But a tiny woman, with a big sword, clearing out a frontier saloon full of men has Leone’s sense of irony or sense of something like that.

Third head: Someone who films panoramic stuff. I can’t think of any names. Hey, maybe that head is faceless. The head with no face.

The beginning of the movie is very slow but has ornate surroundings, which is how the fractal here is related. It has an aged laquerware look, or a patina to it, like many of the ornate wooden things in the film.

There’s a well developed tradition of decorative art in the Orient that we just don’t have here in the West.

The pattern on a sword blade, the box that carries it, the table cloth it sits on, the mountain in the window, even the shadows are rich. Art grows like weeds in a place like that.

January 6, 2006

Fine art with the foot

Is Kung fu a type of calligraphy?

Download parameter file marble01.loo

I don’t know much about martial arts, and I’m not a Bruce Lee fan, but there’s something artistic about the way he uses the nunchuks.

I watched Return of the Dragon the other night. Bruce does it all: star, director and writer too. As movies go, it’s pretty bad most of the time.

Until he starts to fight. Then it’s like full contact ballet. Imagine Baryshnikov prancing about to the sounds of smashing tables and cracking skulls. Kung fu is the art Ballet could have been but failed.

Nureyev with nunchuks. Renoir of the roundhouse.

It’s interesting how something so violent as kicking people in the head can be done so gracefully and with such refined table manners.

In fact, I get the feeling that Kung fu is ultimately an art or performance sport like gymnastics or ballet and only a method of fighting as a way to pay the rent.

Chuck Norris and a couple other westerners are in the movie, but they seen clunky and wooden compared to Mr. Lee. Actually the Japanese Karate guy doesn’t have Bruce’s refined movements either.

Bruce is a tiny fellow and not the least bit intimidating. I’m sure in person he probably surprised a lot of people when they first saw him fight.

He’s like a poisoned dart. Everyone’s fooled by the little guy wearing slippers.

January 4, 2006

I’m still adjusting to the year 2000

I don’t know, two thousand and anything sounds like science fiction to me.

Download parameter file cuzco7.loo

What wondrous dates have we looked at from a distance, walked over, and moved on?

1984 by George Orwell; Space 1999 by somebody; 2001 by Stanley Kubrick.

What’s left: 2010, a sequel to 2001; 2112 an album by the rock group Rush.

It seems the two thousand thing doesn’t mean what it used to. That’s because we’re here, of course. Nothing mysterious or speculative about the present.

HG Wells wrote a book that became a movie, The Shape of
Things to Come. No number with it. We can never say we’ve past that place.

Of course Orwell wasn’t suggesting anything by using the date 1984. It was just a catchy title for that time.

Alright, so what’s the point? Forget that, how about this: Time is like a video game, the kind where you drive a car and move down a road but actually it’s the road that moves, the events scroll past you, and the car you manoeuvre just stays stuck in the middle of the screen.

Civilization hasn’t budged from where it started. The big river of years has flowed past us, we call it 2000 and something but we’re still in ancient times living in modern caves.

For every Cain, there’s now a billion. And for Abel, the same. We’re the momentary apex of a hill of iterations. Self-similar, and living the same.

How could such a colorful fractal inspire something as gloomy as that?

January 3, 2006

I like simple things…

I don’t mean boring, I mean intense, radiant, focussed, strong.

Download parameter file bubblehead.xpf

While we continue in this holiday mode, allow me to pour water on this seed of an idea in hope that it may grow into something fruitful.

…it’s not working.

Wait, think of it this way. Imagine writing. When a piece of writing gets excessively simple, having very few words, it’s called poetry.

What is the poetry of graphic art, visual art?

Design. Form, shape, structure, composition.

What is the most popular form of writing? Fiction, prose, non-fiction, and that sort of thing.

Why? Easy. Poetry is hard to make.

Most attempts fail. Poetry is such a celestial thing that one either creates a shining star or something else that falls back to earth, snagged by the awful grip of gravity, leaving an ugly crater in the ground or possibly injuring members of our audience. (music) “Oh no, stuck in Lodi again.”

But we are so greatly encouraged by the radiance of previous successes that we ignore the micro-thinity of our chances to succeed.

Poetry can become a lottery of words. Who knows what series of alphabetic numbers will win the praise of our audience and release the showers of cash?

Poetry is the fractals of writing: Millions of calculations to produce a few lines.

The calculations of working? No, the calculations of living.

Computers will do better at writing because their great resources allow them to accomplish simple things.

December 30, 2005