Gregory Sams
Gregory Sams
Sun of God - Coming Soon! Click here for more details
The life and times of Gregory Sams
Gregory's published accounts of historical and hysterical events and ideas
He saved a lot of cows, before turning to words
Worlds only shop dedicated to chaos theory
Pictures from the author's travels in fractal galixies and computer graphics

Strange Attractions

(Article from Sunday Times Magazine Jan 6th, 1991)

Strange Attractions is a freaky new "sort of front-line cultural science centre cum fractal_art/boutique" in Kensington Park Road, Portobello. Although its facade bears no name, this is a shop that you are unlikely to overlook: the exterior is splattered with demented swirls of iridescent green and scarlet, as if in bizarre homage to the Far Out decade. The atmosphere within is, less heady, but it is no less funky: cool new-wavy sounds, karma-white walls, industrial aluminium flooring (handy for a quick chill-out, I always think), and - the piece de resistance, this - a majestic, Indo- trendy plaster throne in the farthest corner of the room. So, who goes to strange Attractions? Mostly earnest young men in long black coats who say "Hi" in loud, ponderous voices and whiff faintly of patchouli. And why do they go? Hopefully to buy, but largely to talk, talk, talk about CHAOS, man.

The Chaos Theory, not that you have to propound it in order to shop at strange Attractions, revolves round the notion, first expounded by a handful of mathematically-minded children of the sixties, that, behind the seemingly random behaviour of certain systems (such as dripping taps, the weather, and non-linear equations) there lies, "astoundingly", and order, a pattern. And that force which pulls chaotic behaviour into order is termed, by the chaotically-persuaded, the "Strange Attractor." Hence the name of this hybrid establishment, itself (according to the boggling press-release) "a good example of the strange attractor that pulls order into the cacophony of life's weird bouillabaisse." Whoever said that scientists couldn't be lyrical?

The man at the mast of this turbulent boat is Gregory Sams, a resonantly-spoken and, to judge by his clientele, much-adulated American gentlemen with half-shaven head of grey hair and a trickling back-plait. In the summer of love (1967) Sams, then a luminary of 18, could be seen at this self-same location (chaotic coincidence) doling out free brown rice to constitution-conscious hippies - a gesture which, we are led to believe, has "had a profound effect upon the British Diet." Since those days, Gregory Sams has taken a commercial grip on himself. He turns out to have been the mastermind behind the first macrobiotic restaurant, behind wholefood shops, and behind the vegeburger, which he invented, patented and marketed. Two years ago he sold out of commercial health products (to massive financial reward) and has been partying ever since. But now he wants to buckle down to "something new and serious, " Fractography.

Fractography, the latest bee in Gregory Sams' cosmic bonnet, has nothing to do (as one might be forgiven for imagining) with broken legs or x-rays. No. Fractography is a vastly technical and, we are assured, time-consuming graphic process whereby, through the use of the fractal formulae (eg f(z)=z²+c), a whole array of startling near-hallucinogenic images are arrived at. "Each of the images is a one-off, the majority of them representing customized and unique pinpricks of infinity," he explains. And it is these very images that Strange Attractions seek to peddle: on T-shirts (£6.95-£24.95), as badges (35p-75p), as psychedelic jigsaws, apparently fiendishly difficult (£23-£29.95), on cards (35p-90p), and in frames. The original prints bear such titles as The Answer B, Spiral Symphony and Nuclear Paint Factory, and range in rice from £90-£560.

The Irony of Strange Attractions is that the images that Sams produces are impeccably timed, sending a message to the heart of a culture that places more value on material stuff like business mobile phones than on the really important things in life. They home straight into the club scene. They capitalize on the current Sixties revivalist fetish. They will seduce a whole bizarre cross section of people. But it would be easier, it seems to me, if these highly commercial products were promoted for what they are: disposable visual artefacts. Equally, it would be nice to be allowed to approach them unencumbered by all the heavy fracto-formulaic jargon, so that people who couldn't care less about the effect of a fluttering oceanic butterfly upon the world aren't made to feel as if they'd missed some vital hidden moral to an otherwise enjoyable story. Gregory Sams admits "When everybody is against something, it might be because it's a stupid idea. But it might be because there's something really big there. " And I have a spooky Sixties feeling that he may be right.



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