Page 1

How can digital media help in depicting the order and chaos in nature, in a way that the complexity of it is understood and is beautiful at the same time?



Huge thanks go to all who helped me finishing this document, for the the work they contributed, for making it possible, for supporting the project, for reviewing the manuscript and for giving their valuable feedback. Special thanks to Sheena Calvert, who encouraged me from the beginning and to Rebecca Ross, for her many insights and intellectual generosity. Last but not the least to Peter Anderson, without whose support and encouragement this document would not have been completed. For the technical support, I would like to deeply thank Angus Main, who has been crucial in bearing with my technical glitches and giving his expert opinion of what is practical and what is not. Also, to Sakis who gave us a much needed overview of how to evaluate our research paper and structure it. I hope I make everyone mentioned above proud of my work and make their contribution in me successful. Apologies to anyone i`ve forgotten.

Natasha Singh MA Communication Design

So, naturalists observe, a flea Hath smaller fleas that on him prey And these have smaller fleas to bite `em And so proceed ad infinitum. Jonathan Swift`s fleas (On Poetry 1733)

Image(II) 3D Mandelbulb Ray Tracer

The only source of light in an otherwise dark room engulfing us before a screen, so much so that we make only the barest micro movements with our mouse-hand and keyboard fingers, only vaguely aware of what is beyond the screen, outside the window, outside the city. The chaos of the natural world isn`t welcome in this world of logic; unpredictability isn`t something we want from a computer. However I would like to see it from the other direction, coming from the world of logic to look towards the natural world for inspiration. Here`s a brief overview of the order that science and technology brings to nature and how chaotic nature is in real. “The essence of earth`s beauty lies in disorder,” James Gleick says, in his book “Chaos”, where he describes nature as a peculiarly patterned disorder, from a fierce tumult of rushing water to the tangled filigrees of unbridled vegetation. However people find nature most beautiful when its tamed, arranged and dressed up like flowers in rows; terrain flattened in geometrical terraces. He also says, Nature`s own symmetry, a symmetry of textures, is in which the large mirrors the small. For example the work of photographer Eliot Porter, who did a lifetime`s exploration on nature. The images he has assembled find symmetry, but not the simple left-right symmetry of a child`s paper cutout, rather, nature`s own symmetry. The rivers, clouds, snowflakes of our perceptual tool miss much of nature`s true complexity; the intricate recursion, the convoluted flows within flows within flows. Our mental lightning bolts are Z`s, our volcanoes are inverted and decapitated cones, our rivers are lines, Nature`s not so simple as depicted on computer screen. In reality, a river`s basic shape, and it does have a basic shape, repeats wherever nature empties the land of water and is not a line but a tree. A river is, in its essence, a thing that branches. So are most plants; trees themselves, bushes, ferns. So is lightning and a human lung, which is a tree of ever-smaller tubes: bronchi, bronchia and bronchioles, intertwining with another. (01)

Which, therefore, brings me to talk about Fractal Patterns in nature. As mentioned in “Frontiers of Complexity” by Peter Coveney and Roger Highfield, the word “fractal” has been coined by Benoit Madelbrot, then at IBM, to describe the peculiar geometry of irreglar shapes that look the same on all scales of length. In the same way, regardless of how much a fractal object is magnified, it contains essentially the entire structure of an object. This property of endlessly manifesting a motif within a motif within a motif is known as selfsimilarity. The motif is mirrored at every scale of length For instance, if you look at the edges of a clover leaf closely, it will bristle with smaller clover shapes that will bristle with still smaller clover shapes, and so on indefinitely. Fractal shapes abound in nature, from cauliflowers to clouds; they can even be found in a dripping tap, when an infinite cascade of structure forms between tap and falling drop. Image (II) shows a Mandelbulb which is a new class of 3D Mandelbrot fractals. Unlike many other 3D fractals the Mandelbulb continues to reveal finer details the closer you look. Technology, on the other hand, I feel is perceived as cold, dead and alienating. I am trying to create visual spectacles on screen/ physical world/ environment in which we live, reinterpreting the disorder in nature/ biological sphere and seem to have a soul, heartbeat and breath of life. Resulting in a unique aesthetic that is experimental and playful, anthropomorphizing abstract forms created with code and software, yet give them beauty they hold in real life, through digital means. Their effectiveness in capturing the complexities in nature would make them transform into sweeping animations, which allows them to show textures/ depth/ shapes that never been seen before while preserving the natural element in their creations. Thats what Generative art does, its about creating the organic using the mechanical. In consonance with Matt Pearson in his book “Generative art”, Order and chaos; simplicity and complexity; the mechanical and the organic, aren`t necessarily at opposite ends of the spectrum. They`re symbiotic, intertwined. Our very own existence is poised between entropy and order, between the turbulence of a

“We adore chaos, because we love to produce order�- M.C.Escher, Dutch graphic artist.


hostile, chaotic environment, the natural world, in which we would find so difficult to survive unaided, and on the other hand the simplest of purest nothingness, the void that is equally fatal to our animal needs. We think we may have mastered both the chaos and fought the boredom and madness of order. But there is a constant fluctuation between the two. The mechanical and the organic, like order and chaos, are codependant; one could`t exist without the other. But we never go completely on one side, for to do so is to stop living; to eradicate chaos is to become a robot; to eradicate order is to become a savage. My aim as a generative artist, is to make something beautiful. My attempt is to use the mechanical to create the organic, starting from order and heading towards chaos, and finding a sweet spot in between. Before discussing elaborately on Generative Art, I would first like to talk about the difference between Computer and Computing. As described by Matt Pearson in his book “Generative Art” Computing is what a stream does as it finds its way downhill towards the ocean. Its what the planets do as they move in their orbits. It`s what our DNA does as it unravels. Computing is what I`am doing now as I process these ideas and output them as text. The only place computers really come into it is in attempting to simulate these computations or creating new ones to rival those of the natural world. Thats where Generative art comes in. Generative art can be seen in many spheres, in the production of music, architecture, poetry, dance, storytelling or interactive experiences, and the autonomous systems behind their creation may also be mechanical, games of chance, natural phenomenon, or subconscious human behavior. To be able to call a methodology generative, Matt Pearson has listed down some rules in his book “Generative Art”: the first hard-and-fast rule needs to be that autonomy must be involved. The artist creates ground rules and formulae, usually including random or semi random elements, and then kicks off an autonomous process to create the artwork. The system can`t be entirely under the control of the artist, or the only generative element is the artist herself. The second hard-and-fast rule therefore is there (02)

must be a degree of unpredictability. It must be possible for the artist to be as surprised by the outcome as anyone else. “It is really like the shape of clouds. As one watches them they don`t seem to change, but if you look back a minute later, it is all very different” as said by James Gleick. Refer to Image(III) or the magnified form of it on the front page (Image(I)) which I created using Processing software. The different forms are generated out of the same set of algorithms, however there is a visible difference in their shape and form. To add up to the discussion on Generative art and its laws, Philip Galanter, in “What is Generative Art? Complexity as a Context for Art Theory?”, referred Generative Art to any art practice where the artist uses a system, such as a set of natural language rules, a computer program, a machine, or other procedural invention, which is set into motion with some degree of autonomy contributing to or resulting in a completed work of art. Hence, its just another byproduct of the eternal titanic battle between the forces of chaos and order trying to work out their natural harmony, as expressed in a ballet of light and pixels. In other words, it isn`t something we build, with plans, materials, and tools. It`s grown, much like a flower or a tree is grown; but its seeds are logic and electronics rather than soil and water. Its really about creating the organic using the mechanical. Therefore, I have experimented a bit with the Mandelbulber and created an animation, though which i tried showing Fractals and Selfsimilarity as discussed in this document. Hope you enjoy it.

A chapter from my Reserach paper  
A chapter from my Reserach paper  

On Chaos theory and how Generative Art can describe it in Deigital Media