Upon first stepping into ArtecHouse in southwest Washington, D.C., you are greeted by a deep vibration underfoot. This sensation is the music of artist Julius Horsthius' "Fractal Worlds" exhibition pulsating through the floor from ArtecHouse's underground gallery space.
"Fractal Worlds" is made up of four installations, each of which experiments with the relationship between fractal mathematics and art, immersion, depth, and interactivity. Fractals are infinite patterns derived from complex mathematical equations that often appear in nature, such in shells or Romanesque cauliflower. Horsthius believes that the fractals are already a product of the pre-existing natural world and thus is reluctant to use the word "design" when talking about the work. "When you design something, you have to think of it first and then maybe you draw the outlines or something and you fill in the details. That’s not how this works at all," Horsthius tells ARCHITECT. "This is more a journey of exploration. I find these worlds, I don’t design them."
Based in Amsterdam, Horsthius has a background in cinematography and visual special effects. He is known for his special effects work on the 2016 movie Manchester by the Sea and his video work with music groups like Odesza, ArtecHouse states on its website. "Fractal Worlds" is the artist's first solo gallery show, and although the exhibit is fit specifically to ArtecHouse's space, he hopes it will not be the last. "Sandro, wants to create this same sort of space in other places and then we could definitely have it shown elsewhere," Horsthius says about ArtecHouse founder and art director Sandro Kereselidze.
On the subject, Kereselidze explains on the ArtecHouse website, "Certain things words just cannot describe...they must be seen and experienced... In every city there is an arts destination for fine arts, theater, music, films, etc. Our goal is to create an innovative, new age arts destination dedicated to experiential and exploratory arts that is created through the medium of art, technology and science."
Horsthius uses Mandlebulb 3D software to visualize the mathematical fractal formulas he's been experimenting with for the past five years or more. "It's sort of like how a surfer intuitively knows how a wave will react, even though he will probably will not know the mathematical equations behind the fluid dynamics," he says. "I intuitively know it, but it’s still a mystery to me why simple mathematical formulas create all of this stuff, and I like that."
In the main space, LED projectors depict a 21-minute 270-degree loop on 24-foot-high walls. Watching from the bean bag chairs on the floor, you can observe the fantastical worlds Horsthius has erected and arranged with an original soundtrack by David Levy. "We have this little fast bit in the beginning where it's more upbeat, or maybe more science fiction and this," Horsthius says, gesturing to a room that resembles the inner workings of active nerve synapses, "is more like a place where we explore colors and shapes."
In a second gallery, the artist projects a loop of patterns down onto a basin to create an illusion of depth. In a third, interactive projections on the walls evoke the act of trying to remember a hazy memory; the smoke or ripples responding to movement never quite clearly reveal what's underneath.
In the last room is set up a series of eight virtual reality experiences presented through Oculus for Facebook. These can be dizzying, disorienting, and a little frightening. Additional highlights include an Oculus experience set to one of evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins' Christmas Lectures, an experiment by Horsthius in placing one of his worlds into context, and an updated version of Artechouse's app feature Augmented Reality tailored for the exhibit.
"Fractal Worlds" is open to the public now and will be on display at ArtecHouse until Sept. 3, 2018.