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Mysterious figures sometimes emerge from chaos.

Put a DarkMan on your wall.

Robert D. Jansen, Ph.D.
Robert D. Jansen, Ph.D.

Hello, my name is Bob Jansen. I am an experimental artist who uses chaos mathematics to conjure mysterious and beautiful abstract art.You may have seen my previous Kickstarter projects, "Put a wormhole on your wall" and "Put a War Bird on your wall". In a moment I will be showing you a new folio of the strangest of my strange attractors, called the Dark Man folio. During my regular visits to the poised edge of chaos, mysterious lifelike figures in fantastic landscapes sometimes appear where there should be nothing but scrambled disorder. No one really knows what they are.

 Like the pointillist, Georges Seurat, I “paint” my images one pixel at a time, randomly sampling them from very large image planes (77.7 million to 3.1 trillion pixels) which have been made chaotic by distorting them with multiple functions.

The shapes that slowly emerge out of chaos are called strange attractors. When you converge pixels on the attractor and use their sample densities to assign colors it’s called a flame fractal. Billions of calculations are required to grow such strange attractors to high enough resolution for wall sized gallery prints.

Why wall sized? Fractals printed small, no matter how interesting or beautiful, lack the emotional punch of wall size abstract art. Size matters. Anyone who has ever visited a modern art gallery knows how much of the impact of an abstract painting is due to sheer size. Imagine if Jackson Pollock had painted only 8.5 by 11 inches!

Jackson Pollock Painting
Jackson Pollock Painting

So my project is all about rendering and printing my unique strange attractor abstracts in large format for gallery presentation.

Gallery in Georgetown, Texas
Gallery in Georgetown, Texas

I have built a special computer for rendering my fractals. But I can’t build a 64 inch printer and they cost $30,000.

64 inch printer: $30,000!
64 inch printer: $30,000!

So I need your help to pay for individual large format gallery prints.

And, fortunately, I can reward backers by sharing my ultra high resolution digital attractor images which they can download and print for personal use, either at home or at a professional print shop.

Downloadable from SkyDrive
Downloadable from SkyDrive

They also make an awesome slide show on an HD TV. In fact, my usual 7200 X 10800 digital images, with 77,760,000 pixels, are 31 times the resolution of a 1080 TV, i.e. you would need a 6 X 6 array of HD TV’s to display my images without downsampling. They are even 9.4 times the resolution of the new “4k” 84 inch TV’s, which still have only 8,294,400 pixels. I am also offering three different sizes of larger vinyl prints as rewards: see rewards section for details.

18" X 27" on vinyl, unframed ($100 pledge reward)
18" X 27" on vinyl, unframed ($100 pledge reward)

My Darkman project goal is modest: to print and mount three attractor-abstracts in large 4 by 6 foot gallery format, $600 total. Any pledges in excess of that goal will be used to render and print as many additional strange attractors as possible from this “DarkMan” folio. The campaign period will be 30 days.

The Dark Man Folio: My strangest attractors.

What I am calling The Dark Man folio is a collection of the strangest of my strange attractors. During my regular visits to the poised edge of chaos, mysterious lifelike figures in fantastic landscapes sometimes appear where there should be nothing but scrambled disorder. No one really knows what they are.

The Dark Man appeared on my screen one day and sent a shiver up my spine. As usual, I had used a random genome to grow a beautiful attractor. But a grotesque shadow figure had materialized instead, not completely human, forbidding, demonic, scary.

Dark Man
Dark Man

The image reminded me of a dream symbol that the Swiss psychologist, Carl Jung called the shadow figure or animus. Jung was the most famous student of Sigmund Freud. Freud felt that the interpretation of dreams was the royal road to the unconscious. So Jung, after collecting thousands of dreams and myths from all over the world, became convinced that there was a universal set of dream symbols, which he dubbed archetypes. Possibly influenced by Ralph Waldo Emerson’s transcendental “Oversoul” or the Vendic idea of “Paramatman”, Jung made up a metaphysical explanation with a Freudian twist: dream archetypes come from a “collective unconscious” shared by all humanity.

Metaphysics aside, all humans do share the same brain structures, and neural activity during sleep seems poised on the edge of chaos much of the time. It could be that Jung’s archetypes, and dream symbols in general, are the result of something like the IFS process that creates strange attractors. Perhaps waking consciousness samples and filters chaos into coherent sensory perceptions; then sleep consciousness continues the analysis offline by converging and shaping memories into the strange attractors we call dreams.

Perhaps computers don’t sleep exactly like meat brains do, but already, in the past year, I have generated three “Jungian” attractors, a realistic looking witch (in the Wormhole folio), an attacking monster (Nightmare) and the more recent shadowy Dark Man. They all look like illustrations taken straight out of Jung’s famous book, Man and His Symbols.

If the archetype/attractor model seems too unsupported, there are more mundane possibilities. The digital flame artist makes many choices which influence the shape of the final image. It is possible that the “emergence” of Jungian dream symbols in my attractors is because I somehow unconsciously use those choices to make dream symbols. If I am really doing something like this, my computer, Intel i5, which I often refer to as my auxiliary brain, would also have to be functioning as an auxiliary unconscious.

Recently a French journalist called me an “experimental artist”, an appellation I had not heard before. I actually trained as an experimental psychologist: there really is such a profession.

(Timothy Leary, of LSD fame, though perhaps not the best poster child for the profession, was an experimental psychologist. One of my students thought an experimental psychologist was like an experimental aircraft so she asked, “When will you become a real psychologist?”)

Anyway, experimental psychologists are real enough. We design surveys and polls, develop psychological and statistical tests, study the brain, learning and memory, or perception.

I have always been interested in how we make something that is comprehensible or beautiful out of the “buzzing booming confusion” that surrounds us. Toward that end I have done a lot of experimenting with art as well as science. An early experiment at UCSB investigated our ability to see meaningful things in the world around us.

A few years later I was fortunate enough to manage an experimental image laboratory in a software company in Los Angeles which had one of the first digital video systems. We investigated, among many other strange things, the emotional and physiological effects of watching moving (1/F) fractals such as colored gas turbulence, bubble formation, tropical fish swimming in tanks, etc.

A bit later I was experimenting with video feedback loops, aiming analog video cameras into their own monitor and varying orientation, focus and color controls, sometimes placing various gratings into the loop by inserting them between the camera and monitor.These video feedback loops were actually (light speed!) iterative function systems, and produced fractal like images. I was so impressed with this that I wrote about it to Benoit Mandelbrot, at IBM-Watson at the time, who wanted to see it before commenting.

Scott Draves’ 1992 flame fractal algorithm provided me with better choices than any previous methods. Most of the image manipulations possible in algorithmic composition are not available in traditional painting at all. Highly detailed changes are immediate. I can populate and distort the image plane with any number of non-linear functions, move them around and watch them interact like colliding galaxies. I can explore these new universes, zoom in on any part, blow it up, turn it to any angle, twist it and flex it, draw it out to impossible thinness, mutate it by varying it slightly or randomly. The entire color pallet can be changed, instantly, any number of times. The algorithm used to render flame fractals was developed twenty years ago but they generally have not been printed any larger than letter size, 8.5 by 11 inches. Large format computer printers were not readily available until recently, and rendering attractors with the ultra high resolution needed for large prints requires more computing power, and more patience, than most people had, back in the day.

The images I am generating are sometimes stunningly beautiful, but my large format fractal art “experiments” are not just about making gallery prints. Growing strange attractors to the ultra high resolution necessary for large format printing e.g. 21,600 by 14,400 pixels, 3.11 billion pixels total, in addition to regularly crashing my computers, is also generating some unexpected images. Fantastic tiny figures often materialize, details which are embedded too deeply in chaos to emerge in lower resolution renderings. Rather like the increase in resolution in telescopes and microscopes revealed more detail in the optical universe, I believe these attractor details may actually be revealing something new. It may seem an odd idea that we would need a mathematical process to see some new aspect of reality; but, of course, statisticians and physicists do it every day. Sometimes one attractor will have many such strange elements, reminiscent of Hieronymus Bosch.

Unearthly Delights
Unearthly Delights

Strange attractors, as gravity wells in the state space of all possible forms, may be orbited by shapes, landscapes and animals that have never existed: (shades of Plato’s heavenly ideals). We see many animal bodies on Earth, for example, but species come and go and the state space is large, so there may be many organic shapes we have not seen, that have never formed here or are long extinct without fossil record. Generating strange attractors from constrained random chaos may show us such unexpressed bodies or body parts. Some attractors certainly look like organic life forms. We might even discover what extraterrestrial life forms look like before we actually encounter them.

Gossamer Encounter
Gossamer Encounter

Some attractors in the Darkman folio seem to show universes quite unlike our own. Gossamer Encounter, for example, contains impossibly flimsy structures that do not seem to obey Newtonian laws of physics. 

Homunculous
Homunculous

What something looks like depends on how close we are standing. For example, at first glance the image I am calling Homunculus appears to be a complex diaphanous being controlled by two small figures inside, one human and one reptilian, fighting off something with a sword. However, if the viewer zooms into the face of the little man, it soon ceases to look like a face at all. Of course this is true of any perception: get close enough to anything and it is going to change appearance radically.

Homunculous, closeup of man
Homunculous, closeup of man

You may have seen fantasy art like Gossamer Encounter or Homunculus before, but it is important to realize that these images, like all the other images in the Darkman folio, were not drawn, retouched or photo-shopped in any way. They were rendered iteratively, one randomly chosen pixel at a time, from a randomly chosen set of variables set to random values. They are coherent images, coherent at least to human eyes, created entirely by random processes.

There is always something delicious about ontological mysteries.My Dark Man attractor images are just one more serving of fractal enigma. The rest of the Dark Man folio images appear below. Resolution is about 1% of actual images.

Blue-nosed Pony
Blue-nosed Pony
Molecule
Molecule
Fishwife
Fishwife
The Downcast Buddha
The Downcast Buddha
Brain Face
Brain Face
Lensing
Lensing
Dog Star
Dog Star
Zulu
Zulu
Ratso
Ratso
Howlers
Howlers
Flamboyant
Flamboyant
Animus
Animus
Siphon
Siphon
Rage2
Rage2
Poisonous
Poisonous
Mothership
Mothership
Falling in Love
Falling in Love
Parrots Discussing Theology
Parrots Discussing Theology

For Wormhole and WarBird images, see those projects. They are available even though the campaigns are over.

Risks and challenges Learn about accountability on Kickstarter

Rendering very high resolution fractals tests the limits of computers and printers. And software is open source, beta versions, full of bugs. There are sometimes backer issues with downloading very large files from cloud sources. I am available as support 24/7.

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    Dark Man folio digital downloads (n=20), ultra high resolution digital images with rights to print any size for personal use. From SkyDrive.

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    Wormhole Project digital downloads (n=21), ultra high resolution digital images with rights to print any size for personal use. see http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1241276222/put-a-wormhole-on-your-wall

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    WarBird Project digital downloads (n=25), ultra high resolution digital images with rights to print any size for personal use. see http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1241276222/put-a-war-bird-on-your-wall

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    All 66 digital images from DarkMan, Wormhole and WarBird projects combined. With rights to print any size for personal use. From Skydrive.

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    18 X 27 inch print, non-solvent ink on matte vinyl, choice of any image from any folio, sent rolled in tube. Includes all 66 digital downloads as a bonus.

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    36 X 54 inch print, non-solvent ink on matte vinyl, choice of any image from any folio, sent rolled in tube. Includes all 66 digital downloads as a bonus.

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    48 X 72 inch print, non-solvent ink on matte vinyl, choice of any image from any folio, sent rolled in tube.Includes all 66 digital downloads as a bonus.

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Funding period

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