The 2005 Exhibition “In Search of the Watchmaker” explored the notion of fractals in the invisible world – the incomprehensible mathematics of the Universe. “Earth, Fire & Water” is about the dynamic fractals of the visible world, where observation and not imagination is the prerequisite for understanding the nature of fractal structures of the earth. The mystery of the two worlds is the interconnectivity by fractals, an observation which continues to haunt the mind. Are these observable fractal formations simply the result of millions and millions of years of cosmic change or are they the fabric by which the Watchmaker, God, has used to weave the universe together?
The notion of God has become quite unfashionable in today’s post, post modern world (post2), being superseded by a mumbo jumbo of rhetoric that reflects the confused times we live in. This loss of spirituality has resulted in a floundering of moral and ethical standards, which despite the vast array of consumer goods available and the fantastic achievements in science, medicine and technology, the post2 world lives in fear and lacks direction. Our leaders continue to take us on a merry dance, ignoring the signals of Global Warming as a mere environmental inconvenience that will go away at the next election. The new pandemic is psychological – fear. In the exhibition of Earth, Fire & Water, the viewer is asked to observe the earth that he lives upon, and wonder by what processes this most precious jewel has been assembled, and by what means is it being held together. We are moving into a world of unknowable knowledge, but none the less our minds must explore its boundaries and determine for ourselves whether a Watchmaker exists or that the universe is one big fractal of chance.
But before we proceed, let me explain what fractals are all about. In 1985 a mathematician by the name of Benoit Mandelbrot discovered fractal mathematics, which have become known as the Chaos Theory. This form of mathematics explains how simple forms can be transformed into very complex patterns and forms. The example of the table napkin serves as the simplest way of comprehending fractal mathematics. Consider the vertical edge and horizontal edge to be axis lines. Draw 2 dots on the napkin. The relationship of those two dots can be explained by referring back to the points where they are located, by measuring the distance from the vertical and horizontal axes. This is the notion of Euclidian Geometry – this is the geometry of high school, the square, the circle, the triangle and so on. Now take the napkin in your hand and crush it. Now unfold it. The two points are on the napkin but no longer can their position be explained by measuring the distance from either axis. The two points are now in a multidimensional framework that is constantly in a state of flux. This is the notion of fractal mathematics and describes how the real world is held together. Once you become aware of the notion of fractals, you begin to see them everywhere. Cloud formations, coast lines, bark on trees, branches on trees, rock formations, cracks in the road – nature is full of fractals. Look closely at the veins in your hand; the blood vessels follow fractal lines. The nervous system is a fractal network; brain patterns follow fractal forms. In the kitchen, broccoli and cauliflower are fractal forms. When you add milk to coffee, fractals form before the two are blended together.
Earth, Fire & Water observes fractal forms in nature. The beautiful array of colours are not invented, they belong to earth. If you are not convinced, visit Google Earth. Your eyes will be amazed.
The repetitive nature of fractals almost defies the notion that they can be destroyed, that is the paradox. Fractal filaments are destroyed slowly, with no apparent visual disturbance evident. This process occurs over time until the break up is reached where the entire fractal network plunges into disarray.
We may have stumbled upon the keys of the universe, but must now ask how is it that these keys came to exist.
Like William Paley’s discovery of a watch in a field, the question is asked, ‘are these fractal formations the result of a long process of accidental occurrences or is there another explanation – one that we cannot know or explain, one that demands a belief that there exists an invisible world that too is held together by these fractal forms?’ We cannot know the answer.
We have found the keys, but have no idea where the door is or how to open it. That is the start of a new journey of the mind. That is the challenge in the post2 world.
We, as guardians of Planet Earth are all capable of making a difference to the biosphere and ecosystems of earth.
It is up to us to choose where and how we walk, to ensure that earths fractal filaments are not destroyed.
- Nick Chlebnikowski. Melbourne, April 2006