About this project
Put Divide by Zero on your wall.
Visual art emerging from a chaotic process: backers can download and self-print the 300+ awesome high resolution strange attractors created by Dr. Bob Jansen.
Robert Dennis Jansen trained as a neuroscientist specializing in visual imagery. He has also worked as an experimental artist in sound and graphics since the late 1960’s. His art work today uses a fractal process which simulates the iterative way that organic shapes in Nature coalesce out of chaos.
In Flame Fractal algorithmic art many irregular shapes (expressed as trigonometric functions) are integrated or “pushed” into one another.
Random values are often employed; and when the artist is aesthetically satisfied with the preview image an ultra high definition (e.g. 7200 x 10800) final image is rendered on a large digital “canvas” (image plane) of millions of pixels using an iterative function system (IFS) that can take as much as 6000 CPU seconds at 10 million calculations per second. Color palettes are created and integrated into the rendered image by sampling random pixel hit frequency, which gives the two dimensional image an entangled 3D look. Finally, the digital solution is printed using various kinds of large format printers and media. Mathematically, the images produced are strange attractors generated by a chaotic process. When human aesthetic judgments enter the creative process it becomes algorithmic fine art.
Jansen’s first set of images in 2015 is called Divide by Zero. It is his eleventh (11th) algorithmic Folio. (Divide by Zero is an undefined operation, i.e. impossible to have a real number answer to the equation).
To ensure success, the campaign goal of Divide by Zero is set at only $300. (However, previous similar Jansen Kickstarter campaigns received as much as $14,651 in pledges.) The majority of the pledge rewards are DropBox digital downloads for backer self-printing: most of the project expenses are for the computer and human costs of creating these images. Campaign duration is 30 days.
Rewards for backing Dr. Jansen’s project include downloading the 25 new high resolution (6750 x 4500) images in Folio #11, or choosing any of the ten previous folios, 300+ images, from the earlier Kickstarter campaigns. Unlimited printing is allowed for your own personal art gallery, or as gifts or (not sold) greeting cards, calendars, etc. There are also large canvas and vinyl prints available as rewards. See the rewards section for details. More bio-historical background and former backer comments appear in the Risk and Challenges section below.
To view all the previous Jansen Kickstarter projects and all their images just put Robert Jansen into the Kickstarter search box, and all these former projects will pop up. You can also view the earlier folios on the YouTube videos which follow below. Keep in mind that HD video can display only about 1% of the pixels that the downloaded high resolution reward images will have.
Risks and challenges
Reviews and comments on Jansen Art (2012-2014): More background and project description follows the backer comments.
Your pictures are truly amazing - I have viewed your sample images on youtube and the more I see the more impressed I am. Your work should be in museums … Fred Abboud
As a photographer (who also spent time with Ansel Adams), holographer, optical engineer & actuary, YOU are one of my heroes! Your greatest fan,
My name is David, i'm a video game/ film composer from Round Rock. Just saw your page on here and was blown away! incredible art. truly inspirational. They are so deep I can literally write music to them! :) Best of luck, David
Students at my school discovered your most recent Kickstarter and would like say that your work is not just beautiful, but inspiring to both the art and mathematics departments. We intend to support your project and ask that we might display your work in our school library as the inspiration of a school exhibition inspired by science and mathematics. …Just know that you have some BIG FANS at Hollis Brookline High School in Hollis, NH. Christine Heaton, Librarian & ETI at HBHS
These "paintings" look really fantastic. Something I've never seen before. Erik Seur, Architect , (Netherlands)
I admire your artwork. I think it is absolutely magical and inspiring. Congratulations on all your projects! Alina Turek
You do awesome work :) Love them! Cathy Franchett
Your artwork is fantastic. Koby Wong
I am one who loves the neon bright colors. The Bioluminous and Geisha Bowing just had me memorized (sic). I think they are both beautiful. I think as well as wall art they will make beautiful screen savers. Brenda Britton-Pitrowski
The Faces In Chaos are wonderful! I absolutely love them. I had no trouble downloading them either! Julsvern
Wow. They are HUGE. No problem downloading them in a zip file. Great work! What I appreciate most is that you are willing to give away the high resolutions images for practically nothing. Richard Nollman
I was poking around as I'm new to kickstarter and saw your amazing fractal art. I am really sad I missed the opportunity to back this project and was wondering if any of this art is still available to purchase? If not please let me just say thank you for the incredible art you are creating. Chris Wright
Just want to say, I really like what you are doing. Your art is, well, bitchin'... Christopher
Fantastic work as always. The big print I have one my wall is always a favorite when people come over. Chris Dunlap
Thank you for continually providing quality scientific art through kickstarter. I have tried to support every one of your projects and love the style.
It is funny but to me this is kind of modern art, which I usually do not like. But I find your work mesmerizing in a way and the story behind it is so interesting. I will definitely be having a place print this for me and will have it mounted and framed. Any suggestion on the best size etc.? Thanks again. I look forward to receiving it.
Just found your Kickstarter page and I am hooked! I would have pegged you for a former math or maybe biophysics professor. Such an interesting use of computer algorithms.
Love your work! My wife commented on it when I changed our screensaver that it was "nerdy art", but has taken a real liking to it. Chris Biro, Sydney, Australia
Awesome work, it makes a great case for art in science! DM
First of all beautiful art designs! I'm a Computer Science/Math undergraduate and am completely in awe from the beauty behind the algorithmic designs. Thank you for your time and your creations. Nick Kacena
I just wanted to let you know that I printed four Darkman prints and flat mounted them so that there was one for each of the small group of university friends I still stay in close contact with for gifts at this year's Christmas gathering. Everyone who have seen the finished products so far (printers, framers, people at my office) has been absolutely blown away and asking about you. I've been sending them all to the kickstart link so hopefully you've gotten a few more backers for the subsequent projects. The party is next weekend and I know my friends are going to be over the moon. Kate Land
Love you work. I've backed the past 3 kickstarters you've done and am backing the 4th. Looking forward to your continued work in the arts! Dan Schmidt
I loved your work! Everyone that comes to my place, always ask what they are, how they were done. I try to explain, but some people have a hard time figuring it out how it works, do you happen to know any videos that explain it in a more no mathematical way? Thanks again, Joao Furlan
I had no problems on my end and have successfully downloaded all of the items in this beautiful portfolio. These pieces are fascinating and of fantastic quality, so expect my support in the future of your work. Best regards, Ty McCain
I wanted to share with you that you are an amazing artist! I am a full-time Fine Art major specializing in 3D Modeling and Animation, in San Antonio Tx. I was not able to make a financial donation at this time, even though I badly wanted too. I would however love to see your art in person. Are you planning on having an installment with the money you raised from kick starter?? Please let me know I would drive to see it. Best Regards,
I know the "Put a War Bird on Your Wall" project is quite old by now, but i have only just discovered it! I am truly amazed by these "Strange Attractors", and when i saw the "Nightmare", then it was love at first sight. Is there any way i can buy this of you digitally still? I would really love to. Kind regards, Kennet Bonnicksen
Just wanted to say that I love your work! I am an artist (realist, abstract painter, digitial artist, and 3d modeler and render, Photoshop expert -- kinda...getting there. As I said, I absolutely love your work and will donate $25 for your current set of images (maybe I will do more, money is pretty tight, before the end of your project). I am surprised that for $25, you are willing to provide all the image files in the current project portfolio. Your work is amazing. I did some work with Fractals a while back but this is much more exciting than tradition fractal images and image creating programs I have used in the past. Really incredible stuff. I have noticed that you are not apparently in this for big bucks, even though it appears to me that you could charge a lot of money for your work. I assume that like me, the biggest thing is being able to share your work with the masses. Or have you had big shows and received a lot of money in another venue that I do not know about? It does not seem so, because you say that any money you receive goes back into research and exploration. Why do you choose not to go after fame and fortune? When I saw your work I was immediately attracted to it not only for its elegance and complexity, but by its size. Rich Nollman
Thank you for sharing your brilliant beautiful work and making it accessible so many can enjoy. I myself am an artist (dancer) and realize the difficulty and dedication of the craft. I am so happy you have been successful in sharing your work on Kickstarter! Ashley Meeder
How my experimental art work is done, and why.
by Robert Dennis Jansen, Ph.D.
Since the 1967 Summer of Love I have been searching the edge of chaos for the Deep Structure of Beauty. I have used paint brushes, knives and trowels, airbrushes, sponges, squirt guns, shot shells, firecrackers wrapped in paint, paint dropped from second story windows, paint dribbled onto spinning canvases or run over with a bicycle. I can’t remember everything I tried in the Haight-Ashbury, but, as Robin Williams once said, if you can remember the sixties clearly, you probably weren’t there.
I was never really a hippie, having come of age at the tail end of the Beat Generation. The straight world in the late 1950’s was something out of Mad Men. Beatniks were rebellious young people like Jack Kerouac, Jackson Pollack, or Marlon Brando. The generation was called beat, not because of the musical meaning of the word, but because they were existentially exhausted, beat in the sense of being too disillusioned, following the Korean War fiasco, to hold a regular job. The Russian suffix, nik, was added to Beat because of the first Earth satellite in orbit, Sputnik, and also to negatively associate the Beat movement with Communism. Beats hung out in coffee houses, read weird poetry, and smoked pot when possessing one joint got you twenty years jail time. The Beatles, whose name actually punned on Beatniks, didn’t arrive until ’62 so Beatniks listened to Folk music or cool West Coast Jazz; Miles, ‘Trane, or Brubeck. Calypso, Bongos and Flamenco guitar were popular in coffee houses. It was before the Pill or Roe v Wade , at the birth of Women’s Lib: Beatnik girls were too beat to shave any part of their bodies and wore their hair long over black leotards, like Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s; guys grew face hair if they could but male head hair was still kept short. It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.
By the eighties I had gotten a Ph.D. at UCSB studying how the brain processes visual imagery. There was a shortage of proper academic jobs at the time (the Baby Boom had just passed through), so I was doing marketing research on package design. Because of a silly article about stress reducing wall paper designs I published in Ad Age, goofy cash-rich software people in Los Angeles recruited me to carry on experimenting with “stress reducing” video imagery. There is a lesson to be learned here: if you publish silly articles you are liable to attract really crazy people. The CEO of the L.A. company had also somehow learned that before grad school, in the early ‘70’s, I had owned a video tape studio in San Francisco on Stevenson Street, between Ray Dolby’s lab and American Zoetrope. Since I used to have lunch with these guys, the CEO thought something might have rubbed off on me.
When I got to Los Angeles I bought a couple of wonderful Ikegami cameras and recruited a videographer from Andy Warhol’s Factory and a Hollywood coke-head who duplicated VHS porn tapes in his garage. In a skyscraper on Wilshire Blvd. next to UCLA we taped tropical fish swimming languidly to hypnotic bubble sounds, shot dry ice clouds with colored lighting (looks just like fire), or ran compressed helium into gallons of detergent to make huge floating bubbles which we zoomed into. We were making fractals the hard way, of course, and all this was jolly good messy fun, but recorded only in low resolution analog tape format, best we could do at the time. We got mentioned on the Tonight Show and I got interviewed on national radio for a tape we released called “Video Fish”: my fifteen minutes of fame.
Messy analog fun notwithstanding, it turns out that nothing works quite as well as mixing trigonometric functions on a chaotic digital image plane. The ultra high resolution digital algorithmic method I use now was invented by Scott Draves in 1992 and developed by a whole lot of really smart people. Called flame fractals, it can create images that are very different from the curly starfish-like Mandelbrot fractals one sees in math books. Draves’ method is based on the idea that gorgeous highly complex shapes can be slowly created by combining or integrating various non-linear alterations of a digital image plane. Think of it as a digital image synthesizer.
Unique artistic ownership. Using the open source software, Apophysis, I set 93 positional and intensity values for each function-variable used, which can be combined with any subset of the other 49 unique function-variables. That is enough factorial state space to make each image more functionally unique than a credit card number. And once the set up image is rendered, (the IFS also has many programmable settings), it can be translated, rotated, zoomed, mutated through other functions, cropped, and colored in Photoshop or Illustrator.
The result can be stunning, transfixing the viewer with unbelievable complexity that looks organic, like it was grown. Human and animal faces and body parts keep appearing in this chaotic mixing of geometric-mathematical functions making it tempting to imagine that real life forms are strange attractors which arise in chaotic Nature. Often the sheer complexity of flame fractals is what is most impressive to viewers.
One school librarian in Maine wrote to me that so many of her students had mentioned my work that she wanted to put my images up in her library so that all her students could see how beautiful math and science are. Another IT backer said he has put one of my huge fractals on his wall to remind anyone who looks at it that writing code is a fully human endeavor.
Viewing abstract art as a mathematical-scientific process raises some interesting questions. What exactly is an abstract image anyway? Are there a limited number of them, or can we go on forever creating them? The “genome” state space for 50! graphic variables and all the possible ways they can be weighted, combined and positioned in a two dimensional array is unimaginably large. But complexity theorists like Stuart Kauffman suggest that within huge combinatorial state spaces like biology or chemistry there are probably basins of attraction that reduce combinatorial complexity to much smaller numbers. Most of the random value flame fractal images don’t look like anything at all. After a few years of generating random combinations of non-linear graphical variables and selecting from them I am beginning to sense that there might be such attractors in the state space of algorithmic Art. Not such a strange idea, perhaps. Human senses efficiently filter what is necessary in the environment to survive and reproduce; reproduction is an attractor, in effect. As I choose one abstract image over another in my process of selection, I cannot help but wonder if I choose shapes and colors because they look like the organic curve of a woman’s body, the shape of a human smile, a cluster of fruit in a distant tree. We draw or paint what we are physically able to see and manipulate. When we paint with a brush we are filtering what we intend through the limits of our fractal neuro-musculoskeletal systems: Apes and even elephants have painted some awesome gestural abstracts, one could suggest because they too have fractal musculatures and perceptual systems. But algorithmic computer aided methods expand all that. Thanks to Scott Draves et al I am able to manage far greater complexity. But selection, call it algorithmic selection rather than natural selection, still flows through the bottleneck of my fractal sensorium. My own apperceptive selection process does not pause until it sees something meaningful in some abstract sense.
I believe the larger message that fractal algorithmic art derived from chaos delivers is philosophical: that Art is not sent from the gods nor is it a mystical madness; Nature has its own inherent order and humans and all our artifacts are an emergent part of that deep structure. Art is built into Nature and emerges from it. Nothing is outside or above Nature, including what we see as beautiful.
This humanistic idea has never been accepted by people with ontological delusions of grandeur. But seeing a beautiful complex image formed by the random juxtaposition of mathematical functions is enough to knock the hubris out of any abstract artist. If the viewer understands what they are seeing, it may do so for them as well.
Robert Dennis Jansen, Ph.D., Georgetown, Texas, 2015Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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