INTERVIEW WITH THE ARTIST
Julius Horsthuis the digital artist behind Fractal Worlds, on view through September 30th, 2018. Please note these answers are paraphrased and not direct quotes from the artist.
Tell us a little about who you are and your background.
I am Dutch and I grew up in Amsterdam. From the age of 10, I wanted to make movies, I even had a video camera and was always playing around. I applied for film school but was rejected three times. So I decided to work in the film industry. I got started at age 19 doing all the tech things on film sets, like sound, lighting and camera work. Afterwards, I went into computer graphics and worked as a visual effects artist and supervisor. I worked on some interesting films doing design work. For example, I was the visual effects supervisor for Manchester by the Sea. Throughout this time, I still wanted to tell stories and do more, but I realized becoming a director is difficult if you don’t have a team.
How did you get interested in and started creating this kind of work?
I discovered fractals back in 2010. I still wanted to do movies, so I was writing scripts and doing research. I have always been interested in cyber punk or sci-fi genres (like the movie Interstellar). While I was working on a script of those genres I found a video of fractals online. They interested me as a setting for a story, I wanted to make them more fleshed out, like a background for a movie. So I started to look for software that makes this possible. My background in animation and special effects opened many doors and possibilities around this.
To me, fractals were a way of creating beautiful scenes and spaces. I know how to render and think from a cameraman’s perspective, so I applied those skills to these virtual mathematical worlds. I started to experiment and created a few shorts; these received positive feedback, which encouraged me to continue to experiment, ultimately I decided to focus on this. I wanted to push fractals to the limits and get these experiences to the people. For me it is all about motion and storytelling, but in an abstract way. I do not do stills; my work feels like the movies to me.
Can you tell us a little bit about your process?
My process is of discovery rather than creation. The shapes and spaces visitors see come from a mathematical reality, not from my head. Much like a nature photographer I find the right space, and capture it at the right angle, lighting, composition, etc.
I use a software called Mandelbulb 3D. There is a whole community of enthusiasts who create with this software, but primarily they work in stills. This software has amazing potential, but renders straight from Mandelbulb 3D have a trippy 90s aesthetic. I do not find this look appealing and have found that most people do not prefer it either, it lacks depth and cinematic qualities.
What or who inspired you to use technology as a medium?
I have always been interested in technology since I was a kid, and I always liked playing with equipment. I like that cameras film the real world and 3D animation software is a place where you have to create and model everything. Creating and exploring worlds appeals to me, technology is a tool to make that happen. Through this technology you can play with time; like music, cinematic work is not static, and I like having the time factor in my work. It enables me to create an experience, both sensory and emotional. I can play with anticipation and build up. Both in movies and music there is an emotional curve: a climax you can build towards. All of this very strongly appealed to me, just like with music, one can use visuals to create anticipation and cause a reaction, it is especially powerful when combined with music.
I started to do work in virtual reality when Oculus came out. A friend sent me one headset to experiment with. I decided to try a fractal render in 360 and load it into VR. It was so different, it was no longer just on the screen in front of me, but I was actually there. In VR there is this concept called presence: the feeling of being there, having something all around you; a truly immersive experience. It can be very deep and cool. My first VR creation was called Foreign Nature, it is the only one I have done that is without sounds. I shared it on the Oculus website, and it got put on front page, I got emails from many in the VR industry. People really liked it, and because of this positive response from the community, I started making more.
What brought you to ARTECHOUSE? What does showing your work in this kind of space mean to you?
I met with Sandro [ARTECHOUSE co-founder] through a mutual connection. After speaking to him, I was excited to have the opportunity to share my art in a unique way and on a grander scale. I am new to the gallery world and installation art. I have done a fulldome before, in a planetarium, and that was an incredible experience. But I have never worked in a space like ARTECHOUSE. I enjoyed working on the dome because like VR it is immersive but you are in the space with other people and get to experience it together. The experience is a bit deeper because you can enjoy together instead of alone. I am excited to explore that experience at ARTECHOUSE and walk into the worlds I have discovered.
Is there an overarching vision about the work that you do or the messages you produce through your art that you are trying to convey to viewers? Something you want them to come away thinking or feeling?
I want to stimulate the viewer's mind and imagination. I want them to get lost in the detail and their senses.
Learn more at www.julius-horsthuis.com