My very first BLOG entry included a little table of differences
between glitch art and fractal art. Here it is again:

GLITCH ART                                   FRACTAL ART
----------                                   -----------
artificial                                   mathematical
fun and vacuous                              attracts geeks
purely digital                               digital and continuous
found                                        usually computed
deterministic and quasi-random               chaotic
fast - instant gratification                 slow to compute
tiny following (me and a friend)             massively popular 1985-1995

It's quite funny to look back at stuff from that first day! 

Let me admit straight-up that I used to really like fractals.
You don't believe me? Here's the proof:


It's a photo of my college room in 1992. Observe how the fractal infection
has spread to walls, noticeboards and cupboard doors. A serious case of
fractalitis, you'll surely agree. 

So what went wrong? What happened to my love-affair with fractals? After all,
I had all the right credentials to be a lifelong fractal fanatic - 
I studied mathematics at university and wasn't afraid of computers.
But something was missing. It was only later that I would
discover that the missing ingredient had already been sowed subconsciously
many years ago.

It was 1998, in a second-hand bookshop in the UK city of Bristol that I stumbled
across a gem of a book called The Computer In Art by Jasia Reichardt.
(You can find some scans taken from the book by following the REICHARDT link
on the home page.) I was very strongly moved by the early examples of computer
art in this book. Some images were random, some were deterministic yet
random-looking, and most were composed from straight edges and blocky pixels.
The seed in my subconscious had now been given a big boost by this book, but it
would still take two more years before breaking through to my conscious mind.

July 2000. I don't actually remember what happened exactly. Something flipped
a switch in my head. I got home from work, fired up a scientific
software application called MATLAB (MATrix LABoratory), and created the three
images you'll find on the IMPRESSIONISM page. I then thought to myself:
Hmmm, I like these, I know, I'll call it "Pixel Art" and do a web site all about it! 
So I looked through my cherished The Computer In Art for a good name,
picked out BEFLIX, and registered (amazingly, it wasn't taken).
So, I had this website with, in total, about six pictures on it that I'd created
in MATLAB. And that's how it stayed for a whole year!

July 2001. I get an email reminding me it's time to renew Ah, yes,
I remember, that's my so-called Pixel Art thing! So I looked at the old images 
again with fresh eyes, and it immediately struck me that instead of trying to 
artificially emulate retro computer graphics and pixellated, semi-random graphics,
I should go for the metaphorical jugular and actually force computers to 
crash and take pictures of the resulting garbage deposited on the screen!
And then it really struck me: I've always been fascinated with the 
crud you get when computer software goes wrong! Not only that, but when I had a 
Dragon32 home computer in 1982, I even remember thinking how amazing the uninitialized 
hi-res graphics screen looked. (Follow the PMODE4 link from the home page for a 
picture of this.) These thoughts flashed through my brain in an instant, and 
Glitch Art was born! It wasn't entirely obvious that I should use "glitch", but 
I'd heard an internet radio show a few weeks earlier, talking about Autechre and 
Kid606 in the context of glitch music.

I like the honesty inherent in a glitch image. What you see is what happened,
pixel-for-pixel. Fractals, on the other hand, are never what you
actually see, because you can always zoom in further and reveal more detail 
(or until you hit the limits of your computer's floating-point accuracy).

Would it be rude of me to say that, although fractals come in many mathematical
families (strange attractors, iterated function schemes, Barnsley fractals etc),
they all look the same. They've all got that same sickly wigglyness
to them! Just when you think you can see where a tendril of the Mandelbrot set
is going, it suddenly splits into five tributaries and makes a nasty mess.
I find fractals too clever-clever to be truly aesthetically pleasing. Sure, I
enjoy dense images, but more chilled-out, a better balance between calm and frenzy.

And then there's the instant gratification... a glitch image hits you right 
between the eyes. It's unexpected. It's instant. It leaves your mind in a 
frenzy, especially if your computer just crashed in the middle of a retro-gaming 
session of Galaxians! Compare this with the gestation period for a fractal image. 
Line by line, your fractal masterpiece builds up. It's like building a house. 
Row upon row of bricks, the little coloured pixels gradually reveal the whole image. 
Glitch is fast. Fractal ain't.

The glitch art scene is still tiny. It appears that glitch music is a very
popular area, though. Glitch art is definitely a more exciting, underground,
growing area than fractal art!

OK, I'm almost done here, but before I go, I'll leave you with one little conundrum:
Why do so many fractal artists use every colour in the visible spectrum
in their images? Tremendously colourful stuff, for sure, but so is vomit.

© BEFLIX Corp. - Random opinions, expressed strongly