Fractal of Things

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Title: Fractal of Things

Artist: Xi Wang 

Completion Date: March 17, 2015

Place of Creation: home

Style, genre: sculptures made from thumbtacks, computer images created using photoshop

Technique: physical arrangements of the object, computer image processing

Material: foam cone, thumbtacks

Link to documentation of piece: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fwOaJs3GI8Q

Descriptive paragraph:

Fractal of Things is an experimentation with natural fractal structures. It went beyond the two-dimensional fractal images, and really engaged in the making of physical objects that had embraced a fractal configuration. My intention was to raise people’s awareness of the nature’s underlying rule,  as well as the appreciation towards the beauty of these great creations.

The reason I had always been a huge fan of fractals was that it revealed the way how nature worked — maintaining the extremely complex system with the simplest rule. While getting to see more and more images, I started to go back to the fundamental patterns and realize the beauty of the most basic natural structures that could be so easily seen, and as well overlooked. During the process of collecting different patterns, I realized that many of the organisms shared similar, or even the same form. Combining the two, we could see that nature not only reused the same rules to create the patterns, but also reused the patterns to create different organisms. In order to incorporate this concept, I decided to first make a model for the structure, and then map the patterns of two seemingly unrelated organisms on top of it to demonstrate the relationships.

In the beginning, I had three patterns in mind: branching, spiral, and overlapping. I wanted the model to look as independent as possible so that audiences could simply enjoy the beauty of the structure before moving on to further associations. The first material came to my mind was metal, cold and clean. After examine the media that are most accessible, I decided to go with the overlapping system using the thumbtacks.

The whole building process was both exciting and exhausting. In the beginning, I was hoping to build a hollow structure that could stand on its own. Yet in fact I had a lot of problems while fixing the thumbtacks. In the end, I had to give up this plan after 5 hours of continuous trying. The next day, I decided to just build the whole thing on top the foam cone which I initially used as a temporary support. Although, the thumbtacks still kept on falling along the way, luckily I was able to continue building by taking the advantages of the overlapping system (having one thumbtack pressing against two). Moving on to the next stage, the computer image processing also turned out to be much more time-consuming than I anticipated. Especially with the pineapple pattern, in order to make the image look as realistic as possible, I manually arranged the fan-shaped sectors one by one to ensure the overall images has the correct color gradient of a real pineapple.

With all the above experience, the projects really consist of three parts — the metallic  sculpture, the computer images, and the process of making. Besides the visual impact of the first two, it was the third part that had really helped me understand how magnificent the nature was. The standardized machine couldn’t produce thumbtacks that were same. No matter how good I was on the paper, I couldn’t work out a straight line on a solid. The difference between the thumbtacks and the deviation of each installation made the proportion inconsistent from the beginning to the end. But all these was not problems for the nature. We see almost those perfectly arranged structure in nature all the time. But we never realized how magnificent it was to create something like them. Thus, it was my goal to help people understand the greatness of nature through my project and my experience.

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