January 26, 2017
Sorrowful it is to realize that we live in a world where scientific truth can be obscured by greedy efforts for popularity and financial gain. Fractal Expressionism, a so-called scientific theory, claims the ability to validate drip-paintings by artist Jackson Pollock.
This sounds particularly promising to the Art History community for further depth into Pollock’s artistic style in case any new works were to be discovered, especially given the chaotic nature of Pollock’s paintings, which make authentication a challenge.
But unfortunately, this theory turns out to be scientifically impossible according to the research of Kate Brown, Assistant Professor of Physics at Hamilton. Last Wednesday, Jan. 18 Brown gave a talk at The Other Side, a community center in Utica, explaining her startling discovery and her experience in opposing the spread of scientifically false information.
Brown mentioned that some scribbles she created herself (Untitled 5) using Adobe Photoshop turned out to satisfy the mathematical criteria of fractal analysis, unlike some of Pollock’s own artworks.
Yet, the use of fractal analysis as a means of profit is still active, and anybody can get a Pollock-style painting tested for $5,000.
What follows is even more alarming. If the software deems a painting to be original, it will be available for sale and perhaps even taken seriously enough to be studied. Brown has been dedicated to opposing the deformation of applicable science by opportunists.
Although she repeatedly modified the content of the “Fractal Expressionism” Wikipedia page, her work keeps getting promptly re-modified by people who are presumably profiting from the legitimacy of fractals theory.
If anything, the efforts opposing Brown take advantage of the reliance on popular websites like Wikipedia for easily spreading information and thus gain publicity. Brown created a website on which her research on fractal analysis and coverage of this topic by the media are available.
Additionally, “#teamfortruth” is a hashtag Brown created for spreading scientific truth to combat false information which circulates under the veil of science.
At a time when the Internet, particularly social media, is an ungated and limitless community allowing the contributions of many without any form of authentication—in cases of heavily trafficked websites like Wikipedia–a great deal of responsibility rests on Internet users and readers to scrutinize the accuracy of any content they share. It is crucial to have one’s eyes wide open to deceitful claims that people use to gain profit.
Brown’s research is often written off as an “opinion” to guarantee the flow of money to “fractals zealots,” as Brown calls them. Human quest for knowledge should not be exploited by a quest for financial gain.
The persistence of fractals theory exemplifies how fascination with art has been used by some opportunists as a source of money.
This is parallel to opportunists who use the fascination of tourists and their inexperience to mislead them into paying more money than they need.
Ironically, the fundamental role of science in the topic at hand is to prove that fractal expressionism, a “scientific theory” cannot prove the artistic authenticity of any piece by Pollock. So, art remains to be independent from science, it remains to be a personal signature that is not subject to scientific laws.