BMFAC: Out of Sight, Out of Mind?

***V*** Another Masterpiece!!!!

I find this work menacing/playful because of the way the optical suggestions of the purity of line makes resonant the larger carcass.

Review courtesy of the The Instant Art Critique Generator.

The 2009 Benoit Mandelbrot Fractal Art Competition’s crowning exhibition at the International Congress of Mathematicians in Hyderabad, India, ended two weeks ago.  No doubt, like many fractal art enthusiasts, you’ve been excited by what you’ve seen from this event that embodies the lone international show devoted to fractal art.

What?  You say you’ve heard or read absolutely nothing about the ICM showing? 

Console yourself.  You’re not alone.  To date, there seems to be no web coverage whatsoever of the BMFAC show in India.

The main BMFAC site has been silent about this (or any) exhibition since announcing the contest’s winners over a year ago.  In fact, I suspect, without Orbit Trap, many of you would also know nothing about the earlier and previously unannounced BMFAC exhibitions held months ago in Spain.  The ICM site, which presumably just hosted the exhibition, still contains no information about the show at all — even if one searches the site for terms like "mandelbrot" and "fractal."

So, forgive me for asking, but did an exhibition take place?

I did find a source that noted the BMFAC show, after two Spanish stops, spent six days in Argentina before ostensibly shipping out for India.  According to Pagina/12, BMFAC opened last June at the 6th International Conference of Mathematics and Design.  The article nicely highlights Argentinean artist Silvia Dunayevich and offers a brief history of fractals.  It also provides a few tidbits about the exhibition itself — like noting that (co-director?) Javier Barrallo "curated the exhibition."  A more surprising revelation was this:

La Sociedad Científica Argentina (Santa Fe 1145) opens its doors today to a sample that includes twenty-five works by authors from eighteen countries, selected in the International Art Competition Benoît Mandelbrot Fractal, which is named after the discoverer of fractal geometry. From Manhattan, it was he who chose the works…

So, if Benoit Mandelbrot selected the winning entries — by himself — then don’t BMFAC’s selection panel members with a few conflicts of interest become something else — like more properly screeners — or, at any rate, doing screening beyond (co-curator?) Damien M. Jones’ initial sorting of contest entries?

Actually, I suspect this account of Mandelbrot single-handedly plucking BMFAC winners in the Big Apple is likely a case of misreporting or mistranslation.  But here’s the thing.  In the pervasive publicity vacuum that consistently surrounds all things BMFAC, how can one ever be sure?

The only web reference with any specifics I can find about the exhibit in India comes from BMFAC winner Sandra Reid’s blog.  Reid, who presumably was contacted by either (curator?) Barrallo or (web hoster?) Jones, reports that

The Benoit Mandelbrot Fractal Art Exhibition will run for the duration of the ICM but is only open to mathematicians attending the event.

Unless the local media in India provide any coverage of the exhibition it is unlikely that there will be any photographs or live footage of the exhibition as there is a complete ban on any electronic equipment in the venue.

I see. Or do I?  Only conference participants — that is, mathematicians — could view the exhibit? I hope there was plenty of informational printed material explaining the connection between the mathematics and the visual images.  Otherwise, might the mathematicians been more comfortable perusing the par files of images rather than the exhibited prints?

If you don’t find the audience limitations of BMFAC’s show just a bit strange, then please consider the inverse of the situation.  I propose a fractal art exhibition strictly limited to a viewing by visual artists — but instead of showing prints of fractal imagery, text printouts of the forumlas used to create the images will instead hang inside the frames.  Does this make any sense?  If not, then why is the opposite plausible?

And, reportedly, everything electronic is banned?  No cameras?  No laptops?  No cell phones?   No pictures at all — even of the exhibition set-up before the conference started?  That’s a serious lockdown.  So serious, in fact, it keeps the exhibit’s administrators from even now using a computer to write about the show.

Now, why might the BMFAC administrators — who twice previously finagled the means to display their work and that of their contest judges beside the work of contest winners — deliberately not want a smidgen of publicity about their previously ballyhooed exhibit?

And therein lies the problem when you run a contest that culminates in an international art exhibition about which the directors remain consistenly silent.  Interested parties are left stranded and forced to rely on their own devices — like speculation and reading between the lines.