Put a War Bird on Your Wall
Robert D. Jansen, Ph.D.
Hello, My name is Bob Jansen, and I am an ex-professor who likes to pull beautiful monsters called strange attractors out of chaos. In the past three months I have created 22 strange attractors even more interesting than the previous Wormhole folio.Scroll down to the bottom of this page to take a quick look at the “Warbird” Portfolio (low resolution images).
For my new project I want to put a flock of fierce "war bird" attractors on your wall. But printing large format is expensive and I need your help.
In my last project, “Put a wormhole on your wall”, I said that I wanted to print my strange attractor abstract art so large that people will think there is a wormhole on their wall. (you can still view the now- inactive wormhole project by clicking on my name and looking for "Put a wormhole on your wall".)
One backer from that project wrote that her little girl now stands in front of her very own wormhole and dreams she is traveling through spacetime to all sorts of strange places. Another backer said he only got an “ok” from his kids with international travel, but seeing one of my attractors printed evoked an enthusiastic “nice!”.
I myself was able to print eleven large attractors and hang some in two local Georgetown galleries, where they were regarded with suspicion by some and enthusiasm and curiosity by others.
But what is an attractor? Strange attractors come from chaos mathematics and are entities that exist somewhere between chaos and order.You can think of them as abstract art if you want, for with some effort they can be that too. Strange attractor abstracts are diaphanous, graceful and complicated, colorful and complex sweet spots in the Hilbert space of all possible shapes which we can, if we are patient, get to un-cloak before our very eyes, like a Klingon Warbird on the main view screen of the Enterprise.Indeed, I call this project “Warbird” because fierce bird-like attractors kept appearing on my own main view screen.
Chaotic strange attractors are not really drawn; they are actually grown, at millions of calculations per second, in a computer. The variables I manipulate are a lot like DNA: each image has a unique set that is used to “clone” (render) a new attractor image.
Rendering a high resolution attractor can often reach one hundred trillion (100,000,000,000) calculations and usually takes many hours of (serial) computer time. Strange attractors result from populating an environment, in this case a 2D pixel image plane, with as many as one hundred individually weighted and interacting non-linear functions, e.g. “swirls”, “cylinder”, “fisheye”, “popcorn” etc. Uncloaking the strange attractor, a multivariate sweet spot in this buzzing and booming confusion, is achieved by repeatedly randomly sampling from the pixilated image plane and doing a tricky bit of converging of nearby pixels.
Apparently this process resembles how shapes in nature are formed, because attractors often look organic, like bizarre new animals or body parts. The “flame fractal” algorithm I use also counts how often each pixel is hit, and this additional frequency information is used to distribute colors and shading. This gives 2D attractors their incredible 3D depth of field and focus.
Since the cave paintings at Lascaux, graphic art has consisted, more or less, of applying colored pigments onto a surface using our mouth, hands, hair or sticks to reproduce mostly real objects. But growing abstract art by randomly pinging a chaotic image plane a few trillion times is really something new. It is the marriage of artificial intelligence to human intelligence, to the point where no one knows what part of the final art work was created by the AI and what part by the meat brain. We are partnered in mixing non-linear functions together like visual music, randomly sampling for days, then blowing whole rainbows into the image plane like glistening droplets into a spider web.
Strange attractors look like nothing specific we have ever seen in the real world, yet somehow they remind us of everything we have ever seen: we sense a deep resonance with our own higher-order neural structures. I suspect that attractor art directly stimulates the neural mechanisms that we use to construct our perceptions of reality, what we psychologists used to call feature detectors.
Like the "wormhole" project, WarBird is about making attractor art large. Why make them big? Fractals have been around for years but have usually been displayed on small computer screens or printed on 8.5 by 11 inch pages.
But anyone who has ever been to a modern art museum knows that size matters in paintings, especially in abstracts. Very large paintings can take your breath away, literally knock your socks off. Imagine if Jackson Pollack had painted only 8.5 by 11 inch miniatures.
When I got a large computer monitor I realized that attractors can also knock your socks off when they are displayed even a little larger. And there are now commercial computer printers that can print 64 inches wide by any length! So I decided then and there to print my attractors in huge sizes, sizes so large they will look like wormholes on a wall.
It has been said that works of art are never really finished, only at some point abandoned; and this is particularly true of rendering strange attractors. The fine details of rendered images like “Macrophage”, 10,800 pixels by 7200, designed to be printed 72 by 48 inches at 150ppi, cannot be perceived on a computer monitor with only one tenth as many pixels. I have zoomed in to show you what you would see if you walked up to the full sized print on the wall. Can you find this patch in the whole image?
I work very hard to keep my flame fractals from looking like “a computer made them”. In fact, a computer doesn’t make the aesthetic judgments, a meat brain does, yours truly, the final and ultimate tangle of non-linear functions.
I am setting this “Warbird” project goal to pay printing and material production costs for three 48 X 72 inch matte vinyl prints, $600. Campaign duration will be 45 days. As with the previous project, pledges in excess of that amount will simply be used to print more attractors in large format and to continue to investigate better methods of rendering and printing attractors. I will again publish photos of the finished works hanging in my Georgetown, Texas, gallery.
As backer rewards I am offering digital downloads of the War Bird attractors from SkyDrive as I did in the Wormhole project. And the Wormhole attractors will be available as a reward as well. (see the wormhole project to view them http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1241276222/put-a-wormhole-on-your-wall ) And, at the request of many backers, I am now offering more printed reward options: sets of 11 X 17 inch prints on heavy stock; mid size 4 by 3 foot prints, as well as 4 by 6 foot wall sized prints.
Larger prints are on a new special smooth surface matte vinyl that looks and handles like canvas but prints better. This wonderful new material produces razor sharp images without glare, and can be displayed several ways: using “pole pockets” top and bottom, using clamping hanger bars on top and bottom, stretched on a frame just like canvas, or attached to stiff backing like gatorboard or plexiglas.
Printing of digital media for resale e.g. wall paper, tee shirts, posters, mouse pads, etc. must be negotiated. Backers will password download PNG or JPEG files from SkyDrive, which will also include a letter by the artist as provenance and granting a license to print this copyrighted material for personal use.
About the digital files:
Using 64 bit Apophysis 7X software, I currently render 1000 iterations, generally with minimal Gaussian blurring, supersampled from an image plane that is 10800 pixels by 7200. This definition yields a 48 inch by 72 inch print at 150 dpi, and I output to PNG, a non-lossy compression file format that is impervious to generation artifacts. I edit when necessary using Adobe Illustrator CS6, and photoshop.
A note of caution: printing large format can be difficult, even with perfect digital files. Very often each different printer or ink manufacturer will require brightness/contrast/gamma adjustments in a graphics program like Photoshop. I have written down all I have learned about this tricky business and this document will be in the download folder.
Downsized images of the new “Warbird” folio follow. Six warbird images are in the above text, the rest are below. The “wormhole” portfolio can be viewed by visiting the inert project on kickstarter, just click on my name and choose the wormhole project, or use the search box. .
Supporting my project is supporting large printing of flame fractal abstract art. . You will also be supporting my particular designs, which you may like for themselves, regardless of how they were created. If you have either motivation, this is the project for you.
The War Bird Folio (includes WarBird, Red Shift WarBird, Klinebottle Warbird, Flemish Raptor, Cyclops, and Macrophange presented in text above)
Risks and challenges
The greatest challange to printing fractal art in large formats is getting the files rendered at high enough resolution, e.g. 300 dpi at 72 by 48 inches. That takes 16 GB of RAM, a fast gaming graphics card, a multicore CPU and it often takes 100 hours of CPU processing. Downloading is another issue: JPEGs are compact but they may have generation artifacts that are visible in large prints. So non-lossy compression files like PNG are preferable. Finally, printers vary, and so do inks. So even the best digital files must often be tweaked in a graphics program to make them look good. Not for the faint hearted.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (45 days)