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Chaos Theory, Fractals and the complexity of existence…

I’ve promised you few notes on “Fractal Ontology”. Well, here they go…

The term bridges philosophical notion of ‘ontology’ -(Greek meaning: ‘theory/science of being’) with the phenomenon of ‘fractals’ taken from the natural sciences and maths. Going deeper – ‘fractals’ originate from the Chaos Theory, and this is where one probably should start all the explanations.

Chaos Theory is a dark horse of contemporary science. Two hundred years ago  it would be unthinkable – Newtonian perfectly organized world-view, with its deliciously logical mechanics, was too strong to allow any serious benefit of a doubt.  A hundred years ago Einstein’s genius abolished the rule of determinism, reductionism and objective knowledge in science – his contribution was so revolutionary and complex that it hasn’t been fully digested yet; practically, one can easy predict, that our 21st century would be a completely different fairy-tale if it wasn’t for that one man and his theories…

The ‘scandal’ of Chaos in science had started to develop in maths (with regular experiments being conducted in 1920s onwards), then had been followed by physics, chemistry and biology  – where scientists observed irregularities, even randomness in the dynamics of systems considered as ‘ordered’ by the traditional views. From various chemical reactions in micro and macro-cosmos to weather and climate – universe has started to display itself as – in fact – infinite chaos, rather than the absolute order, as humankind was keen to believe for ages.

In natural world, there have always existed structures and phenomena, which proved to be impossible to describe by traditional Euclidean geometry or Newtonian dynamics… Mountains ranges, clouds, coastlines, crystals, lightning, blood vessels –  boundless, captivatingly beautiful, unpredictable in its evolution though fairly self-similar, they generate themselves forever expanding accordingly to the rules, which cannot be completely captured or explained, simply because they’re no definite rules… Epitomes of Life per se – the face of Nature in its most primordial, creative and self-sustaining structure… These are FRACTALS – children of the organized chaos of the Universe. Yet “chaos” here doesn’t simply mean ‘anarchy’ but ‘a higher order’ – out of confusion and complexity life emerges as a functioning organism, it may be unpredictable and extremely sensitive to any stimulants – yet – it displays that innate tendency to form into patterns and structures – it fosters and commands order despite of all forces that act against it.

Fragmented, ‘broken’, complex, inexhaustible – this is the ‘fractal’ theory of existence (transplanting scientific concepts on the philosophical field). One of those very few examples where the nature of the human thought and the nature of the physical world interweave so closely and creatively.

Focusing on the creativity- ‘fractal’ world-view belongs to the oldest, most pre-thought, deeply spiritual as the example from the ancient “Book of Kells” (above) shows. There are many symbols and primitive art images created by ancient civilizations, which show their intuitive reading of nature as fragmented, ‘fractured’.

Picasso’s portrait of A. Vollard (above), just like many cubists works from its analytical period picture the fractal vision of reality – looks like art preceded science in its practical applications of the Chaos and Fractal Theory (though calling it with different names)… In many abstract and abstract expressionist works, from P. Klee and J. Pollock to postmodern works (look above -work from the “Fractal Gallery”), often digitally generated one can easily noticed how that chaotic, ‘broken’, non-linear (as opposed to ‘classical’ ordered) representation of reality prevails presenting itself with innovative spirit, confidence and haunting beauty.

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Note: Due to the immense complexity of the issues presented and the brief nature of blogging, one cannot consider this article as ‘informative’ in a scientific sense (due to simplifications and the fragmented outlook). Its intent is mainly that of promoting science and its theories. Care will be taken in my further research to develop this, here introduced, art-science affinity concept. Extended information on fractals can be found online – here are some of the links: FractalOntologyWikipedia, Chaos Intro, EnchantedMind and many more…


Liminality in art (2)

The notions of boundaries, borders, limits, thresholds and so on may be as ancient as the human population itself. In Greek/Roman mythology they are expressed by names of different gods/goddesses, hybrids and monsters – Zeus cares for the Olympus, Poseidon is a guardian of waters, Hades rules in the Underground; forests, agriculture, arts and law – every human (divine and monstrous as well) activity and embodiment of the spirit has its own powerful protector/ rules maker and no interference is into each other territory is tolerated.

Religions exist due the numerous polarities, and the most popular story of creation (Book of Genesis) had started exactly from this – from a separation and making sharp divisions between elements and the mater. In order to survive the species would have to define and fight for the territories and the evolution of the human race is an ‘epoch’ of transcending the boundaries of nature, space and time…

The social, cultural and personal identity couldn’t be possible at all without the ongoing, often uncompromising process of the differentiation. And when philosophy tends to look for an unity and structure in the universe despite of all the intrinsic and imposed/created dichotomies, art in general would indulge in exploring the world as seen within the “frame” (think now about Derrida’s “The truth in painting” and his deconstruction attempt of all the ‘frames’ we tend to see the art through) and beyond it.

And so it goes – Christ would be a ‘worthy’ subject, but even some of his disciples not exactly; harmonious human body was only true representation – the ugly/mutilated one was worse than some of the animals; one ‘breed’ of art-view was ‘high’ (read: ‘true’), the others were ‘pseudo-‘; painting the landscape naturally excluded the sky-view and the figurative works were exorcised of all the abstract elements (and vice versa). The universe seen as in an atom of a very particular concept/meaning or a set of those (lets say: christian version of god, humanists’ vision of a man, romantic vision of a landscape, modernists’ subversion to the classical art) which had to be frozen, clearly and in a division to its possible and apparent opposites… This is basically what all the history of the Western Art is about. About Old Testament God’s job of making the world happen by creating borders between chaos and order, good and bad, light and dark, sky and earth, the animals and the human beings, the human beings and the Holy one.

Where the ‘liminal’ creeps into all of this? Well – right at the start, I guess and simply because the artistic activity in itself situates man on the existential threshold; a bit like a prayer or a sexual act – two different worlds meet and penetrate each other; the universe as it is (or appears to be) and the universe to be created… And the conscious artist is very likely to aim at or to be the ‘passeur’ -‘a boatman’, ‘smuggler’ – the man of passage, the guide who leads his audience beyond the status quo crossing social, cultural,  psychological, spiritual and sometimes very physical boundaries in order to show/explain/challenge…

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This article is a part of a series “Liminality in art” where I intend to define and explore the philosophical and aesthetic notion of the liminality. Please, refer to other articles from the series in order to get the fuller view.


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