Cowards of Us All

Thus conscience doth make cowards of us all.
–William Shakespeare, Hamlet

I know it is sometimes difficult to speak out. There can be consequences. One might be embarrassed — attacked — even punished. So far, only one person has spoken out directly to us here at Orbit Trap about our remarks on the Benoit Mandelbrot Fractal Art Contest.

And he wrote to call us cowards.

He feels we are cowardly because “you don’t address any points made to your posts.”

So I think I’ll make the time to show him he’s wrong. I hope, in the process, the blog’s readers come to better understand why Tim and I have raised our voices against some of the practices of the Benoit Mandelbrot Fractal Art Contest — and have questioned the motives of some of the people involved.

In my last post, I deliberately mentioned no names. But since Ken, a commenter who seems to want to play the role of our collective conscience, used names, then, for the sake of clarity, I will do the same.

Funny thing about a conscience, though. Sometimes, as Hamlet notes, it nags and aches and does cause one to fear and fall silent. But, other times, it sears then scorches until one feels compelled to speak out.

I have put this response up as a main post. I would not want to be accused of speaking while milling about in shadows. If Tim and I are cowards, we are not the kind who prefer to hide.

~/~

Ken,

You’ve written to us so much lately that Tim and I are ready to promote you from heckler-in-residence to contributor emeritus.

Unfortunately, I seem to be in a bit of a bind here, though.

First: Damien says, in a post earlier in the summer on Orbit Trap, that I “killed” OT “by driving off everyone” who had an opinion different from mine.

Then: you claim, in the comments for this OT post, that “you’re cowards because you…ignore direct questions.”

I think this is called a Catch-22. If I do respond, then I am a tyrant who quashes free speech. But if I do not respond, then I am a coward who hides from his critics.

So which is it? And what should I do?

Wasn’t it Orwell who said a picture of the future could be imagined as “a boot stamping on a human face forever”? I guess I’d rather be the boot than the face.

First, can we get a few big concepts straight? Then we’ll get down to some specifics.

You’re right. Contest organizers and directors can establish any ground rules they like. They are free to dictate restrictions on programs and image sizes and colors and styles and whatever. They can limit a contest to just fractal artists of Burmese heritage who live in the Arctic Circle. Totally their call. I never argued otherwise.

Countries can do the same. They can make their own rules. Rules like we’ll throw you in a gulag if you protest or we’ll bind your feet if you’re born a girl or we’ll torture you and call it “enhanced interrogation techniques” or whatever.

Here’s the catch. Just because contests and countries have the power to make rules, it does not follow that those rules will be inherently ethical or fair. If they are, in fact, unethical and unfair, then people (at least in free societies) have the right to say so. You agree?

Being informed of rules is not usually a problem either. Nearly every contest spells out its requirements and guidelines in very specific detail — ranging from deadlines to restrictions to oh-by-the-way-we’re-going-to-include-the-work-of-the-judges-who-judge-you to whatever. I never argued that the BMFAC contest was not clear or open in stating its rules.

Countries usually make their rules known, too. I recall seeing a photograph last year of two Alabama water fountains in the 1950s that said WHITES ONLY and COLOREDS ONLY. See? The rules were plain to everyone. Nothing was hidden.

But, again, just because a contest’s regulations are posted and public, it does not inherently follow that they are ethical and fair. Are you with me so far?

The contest’s origin and history were also explained — even outlined. True. But having a history doesn’t mean everything is above board. Enron had a history — but it was not above board. Bosnia has a history — part of which included ethnic cleansing. Maybe everything is and always will be shipshape. Or maybe a contest was set up well but has become corrupt over time. Or maybe it was rigged from the get go and now everyone just shrugs and glumly accepts the terms. But, again, having a history doesn’t give contests or countries an ethical pass. In fact, sometimes when digging into a contest’s history, one uncovers questions.

Sponsors of contests can, once again, dictate absolutely anything — especially since they hold the purse strings. They are, in truth, demi-gods of absolute power. All fractal artists must show up at the exhibition wearing thongs decrees one. All images must be created with an Etch-A-Sketch while submerged in tequila shouts another. As a contest director, you have to decide if you are willing to agree to the sponsor’s terms. If you agree, then you are bound to carry them out — even if they are absurd — or troubling — or patently unfair.

I hope this prologue deletes a few items from our mutual Inbox before we begin.

Now, Ken, you seem to really want some point by point rebutting. I’ll try to suppress my timidity and start:

You want the entries of the selection panel hidden.

No. I want them completed excluded. Banished totally. Outta there. No entries — period. They are the judges. They are not the contestants. Most people agree there is a big difference between the two.

BTW, where is this list of “universally accepted protocol[s]” that you like to mention?

Oh — just about everywhere. I’d argue no respectable, legitimate art contest mixes the judges’ work with the work of the judged. In the digital art field alone, there are contests by acronyms like MOCA, LACDA, ARTROM, MODA. The Art of Digital Show recently completed a major competition. None of these entities mix and match like BMFAC. Restrictions on conflicts of interest — like judging the works of students and friends — are also commonplace. I quoted one of these in my post, but I guess you missed it. But let’s throw the ball back in your court. Can you name any five art contests anywhere that do allow inclusion of the contest judges’ work. Well. Okay. You’re right. The Fractal Universe calendar. You can have a head start here. That one counts for your side — I suppose — adding a second sorry blot on the overall lack of professionalism in the fractal art community.

It is disingenuous to keep raising this as an ethical issue when it was clearly the decision of the sponsors.

Maybe last year. Maybe. But the sponsor this year (Fundación España Vodafone) must be telepathic, since the contest rules were announced many weeks before any sponsor was even named. No, I’m afraid the director and/or the judges are most likely responsible. Besides, even if past or present sponsors insisted on such guidelines, no one had an automatic weapon to the heads of the director and the “panel members” to insist they comply.

You want to force the organizers/sponsors of the contest to conform to the rules you want, rather than the rules they choose.

Nope. I’m just pointing out that the rules are highly unconventional, biased to help a specific program and its artists, and give the judges a one way free ticket to paradise. Ally ally in free.

Since you can’t affect the rules for this contest, you want to raise bogus ethical issues about it. That is why I say create your own contest or exhibition and run it by the rules you think an exhibition should be run.

Yes — to the second part of the first sentence — minus the “bogus” part. I explained why I shouldn’t have to make my own contest in a previous comment. Remember? I used an analogy to not wanting to write my own laws either. Apparently, you’ve forgotten. And I can certainly appreciate all the expense and effort involved. I really can. I just appreciate ethics and fairness more.

You see, back in that “written record” that you feel already explained everything, Damien said the following:

So I have a choice: I can either run a contest completely how I would like, and pay for it myself, or I can accept money from a sponsor that comes with conditions. What you’re saying is that you find the strings unacceptable. I’m saying that, given the choice between no exhibition and one with some preconditions, I’d prefer to have the exhibition. At least I’m doing *something* Years from now, when fractal art is more recognized and easier to get funding for, others will have the privilege of refusing money that has strings attached. At the moment, I don’t have that option.

Yes. He’s doing something, all right. Something ethically questionable. He argues he’s on the frontier, so he can bend the rules. There’s no law or justice out on fringes of civilization, so Damien is forced to become judge, jury, and exhibitioner. Later on, when fractal artists have their own cable channel, others can run things “without preconditions” (that is, fairly). Well, that’s swell. Or maybe what happens instead is that a “history” is put in motion, and the contest is never again run using customary ethical safeguards. Damien says he didn’t have “that option.” But he did have a choice and he made it — and he now enjoys its benefits — like having his own unjuried art worked into the contest he oversees every year. Some of his friends/panel members made choices, too, and soon hopped aboard without giving much thought to the “preconditions” either. They, presumably, also didn’t have “that option” but do receive similar compensation.

Even the director knows the rules are being bent. He’s fine with that. So are you, Ken. But I’m not.

You don’t like Ultra Fractal.

I’ve never said any such thing. It’s a great tool and capable of producing amazing work in the right hands. What I don’t like is making submission size restrictions that favor UF over other programs — and loading up the judging panel with nearly all UF artists — and then winding up with the majority of the contest’s exhibited images being rendered in UF. Could it all just be a coincidence? I’m just asking…

You think images are excluded because have not been generated by Ultra Fractal.

I think that’s a real possibility, yes. UF can go huge. That’s one of its advantages. Not every generator can easily render images to the mammoth size required by the contest. The director knows this, too — otherwise he wouldn’t have made a joke in the contest announcements that Apo users should Start now if they are planning to enter. More than just fractal programs are affected by the size mandate. People who post-process to a considerable extent are also going to be less likely to enter.

You don’t like artists works who use Ultra Fractal.

Certainly not true. I have featured many UF artists and artworks in the guest galleries on my web site. Would I have done so if I didn’t like the artists and their work? I’d put up a link to show you these galleries, but, unfortunately, they are now offline because I had to unexpectedly move to a new web host and procure a new domain.

A better question to ask is how many people submitted images that were not made with Ultra Fractal. And, if the number is small, ask yourself why.

Hmmm. I never thought to do that. But it is a good question. Here’s a possibility. Maybe many non-UF artists’ programs couldn’t render large enough images to meet the near-mural size restrictions. Could that be why the number is likely smaller? Thanks for the insight.

You think Damien is a dictator.

I never said any such thing. Besides, everyone already knows what Damien actually is.

You don’t like having to produce a large image.

You’ve obviously never watched me make my art. I always work in large sizes. That’s how I’m able to sell prints. I had no trouble rendering entries for the contest — and two of my submissions were highly post-processed. But I’m fortunate to have plenty of RAM and lots of computer firepower. So, I don’t need UF to scale up. I’m guessing many fractal artists are not so fortunate in the equipment they have at their disposal. Thus, the immense image sizes are indeed a hindrance for some.

You don’t like artists taking classes from other artists and participating in a contest.

That doesn’t bother me at all. What I said was I think teachers judging the work of their students is a clear conflict of interest. I linked to two examples in my post. I also asked what safeguards were in effect to prevent this kind of thing from happening.

But, since you know the circumstances behind the exhibition (no matter how much you pretend to be ignorant), this really is just nonsense.

You lost me here. Are you saying it’s foolish to worry about students being judged by their instructors? I think it’s highly unprofessional. Or, are you telling me the contest guidelines addressed this issue? Where in the BMFAC rules did it say: Teachers judging the work of those they taught? Sweet. Well, if you already have judges exhibiting their own work with those they’ve judged, I guess anything goes.

You would like to have anyone who ever took a class from any of the judges to be excluded from entering because you think the judges are so shallow that the mere fact that a current, or former, student entered an image in the contest is going to sway their decision.

I guess you have more faith in human nature than I do. I’d prefer judges not to judge the work of their students — or their friends either. Why not simply remove such potential conflicts of interest? Again, it’s a basic question of professionalism — even if one believes the judges are fine people who would not be swayed in any way.

I suppose it is possible that one or more of the judges may have recognized an image and knew who created it. But, for this contest, do you really believe that this is significant, or an ethical concern?

Definitely. Always. Any judge who recognized the work of a friend or a student should have immediately recused him or herself from voting. Moreover, this action (that so-and-so was a friend/student of Judge X) should have been kept from the other judges. Adding to this problem was that the judging could not have been completely blind because the images of three of the fifteen winners contained signatures. Do you want an impartial contest or not, Ken?

You don’t like people show appreciation to someone else for writing a particular formula.

This is not what I said. Slap backs all day. I said I worried that since many of the winners are trading the same formulas, one runs an increased risk of presenting a show of similarly styled artworks.

You think there is a grand, universal conspiracy by Ultra Fractal and/or those who use it to take over the world and prevent any one who uses other tools or methods to create fractal…

No, I don’t. But I’m pretty sure Paul does. He calls this secret cabal The Fractali. I assume he took the name from the Illuminati. Personally, I think Paul is a smart guy. He could be right.

You continue to imply that there are ethical issues with Damien and the panel of judges by the questions you raise when you know how and why they were selected.

Exactly. You’re finally starting to get it. They basically selected themselves, set themselves apart from being juried, judged others, and then hung their work beside the winners.

How can the contest be a publicity stunt by Damien and the judges when they were approached by the organizers and asked to participate?

As I noted earlier, the rules this year were set long before the organizers had a sponsor. Here is how Damien explained several months ago in the “written record” (to your satisfaction) why the contest judges had to be included in the exhibition:

I am well aware that people were not happy about judges’ work appearing in the ICM exhibition alongside contest entries, but we made it clear from the outset that contest entries would not be the only art shown. This year is no different. The sponsors require this as a hedge against insufficient quality being submitted.

Glad to know I’m not the only unhappy camper. Again, if this is true, Damien signed on to the terms. But who held his feet to the fire? And why was “this year” (2007) no different — especially when a sponsor wasn’t listed until weeks after the rules had been made public? Sounds like everything just got carried over. However, at least in the current contest, there’s a whole battalion —55, count ’em –of exceptional “alternates” and “honorable mentions.” What good fortune — especially since most art contests only manage to scare up about 5 to 10 HMs. But Damien is now lucky to have excellence to burn — surely more than enough to take up the slack for all those sponsors’ fears of “insufficient quality.” So, it looks like next year the director and the judges can finally breathe a sigh of relief and not be coerced by preconditions into displaying their own work. Right?

Did they conspire to take over the contest and mold it to a form so that they could make an exhibition to flaunt their own art?

Looks like it. Absolutely. Down to the last detail. Give yourself a Gatorade shower. I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Other complaints you raise are emotional and ill-reasoned. I would expect better of you and Tim.

And, well, if pressed, we pretty much feel the same way about your comments.

But, your complaints must be objective to have any merit.

I think we’ve tried to look at the contest and honestly report what we found. And are complaints the same as opinions? If so, then they are probably, like art, subjective.

If I’ve made any factual errors, anyone is more than welcome to correct me.

Well, I’ve tried my best. As for errors in logic, I admit there were more than I could get to.

It would also be interesting to see perspectives from other people, pro or con.

Finally — something we agree on. I, too, would enjoy hearing what others have to say about the Benoit Mandelbrot Fractal Art Contest.

I’d like to think Hamlet might have been wrong. Conscience only makes some of us cowards.

~/~

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11 thoughts on “Cowards of Us All

  1. ~Mr. V,

    The comparison I made is actually worse. The judges don’t have to scrap the show; they flat out steal nearly half of it before a single artist has a chance to enter. My objection has never been about disclosure. It’s been about fairness.

    The judges will certainly be pleased if you submit. Without entrants, they won’t get their 40% cut off the top, and their “generous” contest folds like a house of cards.

  2. Tim,

    “You’re a judge and are entitled to a free spot in this and probably all other future exhibitions.

    Try joining the crowd and submitting your work to a panel of judges.”

    I didn’t see your name in the list of entrants. Since you didn’t enter, why are you complaining so much?

    I’m still wondering why the contest is “amateurish”. You said it was, but never said why it was.

    Terry,

    “But how would you feel if that judge decreed 40% of the exhibition be scrapped and his or her own work put up in its place? That comparison, essentially, is what happened in the contest under discussion.”

    It’s one thing to exaggerate a bit to make your point. It’s another to be completely over-the-top and make false statements to make your point. This comment is just that.

    “For my “irrational” behavior of not sharing his views, I was subsequently bullied, threatened, punished, and smeared.”

    Quit playing the “victim” game. It’s not very attractive. You’re an adult, so you should be able to take it as well as dish it out. You’ve been questioned and had sarcastic comments directed at you, but you’ve also dished out the same. And, if you are going to make false statements, like I quote just above, then be prepared to be “smeared”.

    “I’m sorry you find some of my analogies to be over the top.”

    Albert said he found your entire series over the top, not just your attempt to equate racism to the contest.

    “Sarcasm is not to everyone’s taste. It can be useful, though, to point out sloppy thinking — like claiming entities that make rules and post them deserve a free pass from further scrutiny.”

    Sarcasm is also useful in pointing out bogus accusations. I’m glad you like the technique. I like it also. :-)

    And, you might want to re-evaluate some of your own “thinking”. There appears to be some “slopp[iness]” in there as well.

    Now, I think I’ll be done with this topic. At least for now. :-)

  3. Just to re-iterate the main point:

    The judges images were in no way part of the contest and nothing on the contest website indicates that they were or even that they are considered to be as good as the contest winners or even as the worst contest entry.

    It’s quite clear that the exhibition was to be made up of some images chosen via the contest and some images from the panel – I have no problem with this as it’s very clearly stated.

    Apart from that:

    As to winning images and indeed entered images being from a limited number of fractal programs that should be no surprise given the number of users worldwide of the various fractal programs currently available.

    On the print size (i.e. render size issue) then IMHO by the very nature of fractals the bigger the better and one of the points of the contest is to show fractals at their best in the real-world and for that 40″ images are really impressive. Smaller images are fine for private showing in a dwelling (i.e. normal front room etc.) but gallery exhibitions need larger displays.

  4. Ok, I went back to the contest website and read the rules more thoroughly. It’s clearly not a question of the judges replacing 40% of the exhibit with their own work; right up front in the very first paragraph it says “This contest is to select some of the artwork that will be used in the exhibition.” Further down there are details of how many images would be selected, and looking at the winners page, I see that they’ve in fact chosen more than the mnimum number.

    Additionally, on the winner page, there are seven alternate selections, and forty-nine honorable mentions. Finally at the very bottom are the panelist’s own works.

    It’s practically unheard of, in the art world, for a gallery to bother displaying the non-winning entries, let alone in the same place as the winners. It’s relatively easy to do online, since there’s not the expense of printing and framing, but there’s no reason that a contest sponsor would need to bother.

    In fact, the more I look at it, the more this contest seems not only reasonable but generous. There are no entry fees. Entrants are not required to print, frame, or ship their work (which gets expensive very quickly). Even if you don’t win, your work gets displayed on the contest website, which means that anyone surfing the internet for fractal contests has a decent chance of seeing it. Given all that, I’m kind of sorry I was too busy with real-life stuff to send an entry. Maybe next year.

  5. ~Mr. V,
    Naturally, I like your idea of having contests judged by an outside, more neutral curator. Isn’t this the standard practice used in most art competitions? And it’s true that one sometimes sees the work of an “invited artist” at exhibitions — usually done as a courtesy to the one judge who juried the show. But how would you feel if that judge decreed 40% of the exhibition be scrapped and his or her own work put up in its place? That comparison, essentially, is what happened in the contest under discussion.

    ~Albert,
    Thanks for accepting my call for comments. There is truth in what you say. But OT’s archives will show I tried talking to Damien, politely and respectfully, before finally acknowledging that we should agree to disagree. For my “irrational” behavior of not sharing his views, I was subsequently bullied, threatened, punished, and smeared. So, I gave your preferred method a shot — to sit and calmly talk over tea — and got hot liquid thrown in my face. Now, given my experiences, I bring a bazooka to tea parties.

    I’m sorry you find some of my analogies to be over the top. Sarcasm is not to everyone’s taste. It can be useful, though, to point out sloppy thinking — like claiming entities that make rules and post them deserve a free pass from further scrutiny. History, often in a dramatic fashion, shows the consequences of such blind trust.

  6. Tim,

    I was in the crowd before there was much of a crowd to be in. I have submitted my works to panels of judges before and continue to. I have been accepted, wait-listed, and summarily rejected. And guess what? I didn’t worry then and I still don’t worry.

    Kerry

  7. Of course you don’t worry, Kerry. You have nothing to worry about.

    You’re a judge and are entitled to a free spot in this and probably all other future exhibitions.

    Try joining the crowd and submitting your work to a panel of judges.

    Then you will have something to worry about.

    Re: Mr Velocipede
    Excellent suggestion. I hope in the future there will in fact be some curator or other outside artistic opinions expressed regarding the merits of displayed fractal artwork. Fractal Art needs criticism of an artistic nature to develop, just like any artform does. It may however, require people with a very thick skin, at first.

  8. It doesn’t seem all that unusual to me for an exhibit to have a selection of invited artists, as well as an open call for work which will be juried. I’ve been to gallery shows where some of the things on display had a label for “Invited Artist.” As far as I’ve been able to tell from the website, the two categories were clearly labeled as being separate, so there was no particular confusion over which images were which.

    The question of teachers judging their students’ work is a potentially sensitive one. The teachers I currently have at school often have to judge student work, to decide which pieces will be hung in various shows in the school’s gallery (which in turn affects the distribution of scholarship money), and there’s always a certain amount of grumbling among those who don’t make the cut. But in general, this is balanced by the fact that the teachers have seen a lot of art over the years, and they recognize strong work when they see it, whether they know who the artist was or not.

    So, as an art student, these things don’t seem particularly noteworthy to me. For me, the key issue is that the fractal world is very, very small, and so it’s more or less impossible to find judges who are interested in fractals (thus able to be effective jury members), but who aren’t teachers/friends/students of other fractal artists (thus detached and objective). I’m not sure if any such people exist. And as someone with an interest in fractals, I’m happy that there are people who are working toward a greater public recognition and appreciation of our art form, as the organizers of these Benoit Mandelbrot contests are doing.

    It would be interesting to see what would happen if some curator completely unfamiliar with fractals could be persuaded to judge a show like this one.

  9. Terry,

    I’m glad you took the time to respond in such detail. I retract my calling you a coward for not replying to direct questions. The other reference still applies.

    All your references to laws and racism is just silly. A nice civics lesson, perhaps, but totally irrelevant to this particular topic.

    First: Damien says, in a post earlier in the summer on Orbit Trap, that I “killed” OT “by driving off everyone” who had an opinion different from mine.

    Basically, this is true. Most of the former contributors that I enjoy reading what they wrote are gone. Most of those who were inclined to respond are gone. I’ve just continued to read out of curiosity. Yours and Tim’s posts were so absurd that I felt someone needed to say something.

    Mentioning names.

    I mentioned Damien because he was who you kept referring to. You’ve referenced your email dialog many times, so any readers know who you are talking about. It has nothing to do with being a “collective conscience”. Though, I’d be happy to, but you don’t seem to be a very willing student. :-)

    No. I want them completed excluded. Banished totally.

    That is your opinion, fine. Not an ethical issue. And, not really a reasonable one either given the format of this exhibition, IMO.

    But let’s throw the ball back in your court. Can you name any five art contests anywhere that do allow inclusion of the contest judges’ work. Well. Okay. You’re right. The Fractal Universe calendar. You can have a head start here. That one counts for your side — I suppose — adding a second sorry blot on the overall lack of professionalism in the fractal art community.

    I also commented that the format of this exhibition/contest really isn’t the same format that you keep trying to equate it to. Your conflict of interest comments don’t apply here, IMO. You can keep preaching about this “breach of ethics”, but I suspect most reasonable people can see that this really isn’t an issue here.

    Actually, I don’t care what the particulars of other contests are as compared to this one. This is the one we are discussing, with its own setup. You want to show that this one, and the judges, are unethical by comparing it to other contests. Sorry, that doesn’t work.

    Come on, Terry. You are being beyond absurd now. You know darn well that the calendar process is not a strict contest. To try to show it as an example of lack of professionalism just shows how petty you really are. And, you still owe Keith and Panny an apology for questioning their ethics. Until you do so somewhere on this blog, I will still maintain that you are a coward. You are wrong here, and most people know it.

    Nope. I’m just pointing out that the rules are highly unconventional, biased to help a specific program and its artists, and give the judges a one way free ticket to paradise. Ally ally in free.

    You don’t see how silly this argument is, do you? I suggest you take up the issue with the organizers, and quit whining about a few people automatically being able to have an image on display. Unconventional? Perhaps, but hardly an example a breach of ethics.

    Your own contest.

    Sorry, I did miss your comments in my re-reading of various posts.

    Yes. He’s doing something, all right. Something ethically questionable. He argues he’s on the frontier, so he can bend the rules. There’s no law or justice out on fringes of civilization, so Damien is forced to become judge, jury, and exhibitioner. Later on, when fractal artists have their own cable channel, others can run things “without preconditions” (that is, fairly). Well, that’s swell. Or maybe what happens instead is that a “history” is put in motion, and the contest is never again run using customary ethical safeguards. Damien says he didn’t have “that option.” But he did have a choice and he made it — and he now enjoys its benefits — like having his own unjuried art worked into the contest he oversees every year. Some of his friends/panel members made choices, too, and soon hopped aboard without giving much thought to the “preconditions” either. They, presumably, also didn’t have “that option” but do receive similar compensation.

    You’d do a lot better if you’d drop all the ad hominem nonsense. In this format, no, I don’t have a problem with the way it is set up. Same with the Fractal Universe calendar, where you also questioned the ethics of the editors.

    Ultra Fractal

    No, you never “said” you didn’t like Ultra Fractal. Tim did. Others have. It could be inferred by your comments. But, I do admit to being sarcastic when I wrote that.

    But, yes, you are being absurd with the contention that the image size is meant to benefit Ultra Fractal users.

    Large Images

    It was a reasonable inference given how much you complained about it.

    Students and Judges

    You knew that the names of the entrants were hidden from the judges. I made that comment in the reply. I also said in this case it was possible that an instructor might have recognized a student’s image. I also said it wasn’t a big issue in this case. In another situation, sure, you have a point. Here, no.

    Circumstances of the Exhibition

    I claim that you know the details of last years exhibition/contest and also this years. To continue to raise the same issues is disingenuous when you know the explanation. Yes, you don’t agree with them. But, your disagreement is not and does not equal ethical issues.

    Do you want an impartial contest or not, Ken?

    I’m fine with this particular one. It’s not perfect, obviously. But, it was never setup, nor intended (as far as I can tell) to be a rigorous, anonymous, strict contest evaluating fractal art. There are no prizes other than having an image on display.

    In a different format, such as MOCA, where I believe there is prize money awarded to winners, then I agree with you on many of these points.

    Exactly. You’re finally starting to get it. They basically selected themselves, set themselves apart from being juried, judged others, and then hung their work beside the winners.

    Really? An your proof is what, exactly?

    Glad to know I’m not the only unhappy camper. Again, if this is true, Damien signed on to the terms. But who held his feet to the fire? And why was “this year” (2007) no different — especially when a sponsor wasn’t listed until weeks after the rules had been made public. Sounds like everything just got carried over. However, at least in the current contest, there’s a whole battalion –55, count ’em –of exceptional “alternates” and “honorable mentions.” What good fortune — especially since most art contests only manage to scare up about 5 to 10 HMs. But Damien is now lucky to have excellence to burn — surely more than enough to take up the slack for all those sponsors’ fears of “insufficient quality.” So, it looks like next year the director and the judges can finally breathe a sigh of relief and not be coerced by preconditions into displaying their own work. Right?

    Well, judging from what I see publicly posted, I might be a little concerned about quantity of quality images too. I’m fine with the judges having an image display in this exhibition. It does not bother me in the least. Your sarcastic rant aside, maybe next year they will change things.

    Looks like it. Absolutely. Down to the last detail. Give yourself a Gatorade shower. I couldn’t have said it better myself.

    I think this says more about you, than the contest or judging panel. And, it isn’t positive.

    I think we’ve tried to look at the contest and honestly report what we found. And are complaints the same as opinions? If so, then they are probably, like art, subjective.

    Charges of ethical violations had better be more than just an opinion. You may have tried to honestly report, but your report is not honest. There is a difference.

    The bottom line here is, IMO,

    1) Perhaps this exhibition/contest could be run better. But, making bogus, yes I consider them bogus, ethical charges about the panel and various aspects about the contest only hurts those making the charges.

    2) Like it or not, the panel for this exhibition contains many, but by no means all, the top fractal artists that exist. They aren’t perfect, but they aren’t anywhere approaching the self-serving tyrants you are trying to portray them.

    3) There are few “strictly” run fractal, or even digital, art contests, let alone exhibitions, so more events like this one benefit everyone.

    4) The art displayed in this contest may be “amateurish” in the eyes of some, but art displayed on this blog is certainly no more “professional” than that selected for display in the exhibition.

    5) The whole genre is better served by trying to promote varied examples of the art form in as many places as possible. No single event, contest, exhibition, or venue is going to satisfy everyone. Don’t try to tear down the few examples because you don’t like them, or they are imperfect. Find other venues to promote or create some.

    6) Self publishing is so reasonable today that anyone can publish their own calendar, or even portfolio books of their art. Try taking on one of those tasks on your own and see how you do. Perhaps then you will gain a little more appreciation for those that are actually doing it.

    7) Complaining about any particular tool being “preferred” is just plain silly.

    8) Even if you agree with Terry and Tim’s charges, the above list still applies to you and you should think about it.

  10. Well, Terry, you asked for opinions.

    I think you’re making an enormous fuss over frankly very little, and I’m frankly bemused that four lengthy postings in a row are required to reveal the iniquities of this dreaded competition.

    If you had restricted your remarks to a more emotionally neutral “I think it’s best when judging an art show to avoid the appearance of impropriety by clearly segregating jurors’ and entrants’ artwork” you would have a reasonable point. As it is I think you wildly overstep the mark with these rambling public accusations of perfidy. Alluding to Orwell and ethnic cleansing just makes it even more embarrassing.

  11. Well, this should come as a surprise to no one, but I see no problems with the contest.

    I suppose that the labeling could have been more explicit about it being a contest and an exhibition, but that was made clear in the first section of the rules.

    I don’t worry about the selection process being subjective, because it’s an art contest and there’s no way for it not to be subjective. (However, I know that pains were taken to make the group of selected works objectively the best that it could be.)

    I don’t worry about teachers judging the work of students or about friends judging the work of friends or about people judging the works of people of whom they’ve heard at some point in their lives. In every art class/group/exhibition in which I’ve been a part, there was someone who knew someone else and everyone was encouraged to critique the work. I know of no good reason why a judge (in this contest or any other) should automatically recuse him/herself because of knowing an entrant. Particularly in the world of fractal art, it’s a small world, and it’s to be expected that there will be some degree of personal relationships.

    I don’t worry about some particular platform being used in most of the images. Complaining about Ultra Fractal is like complaining about most of the images being generated in a Windows environment or most of the entrants being American (for example; I don’t know either of these to be true). That is, there are reasons for it and they don’t make it an Ultra Fractal (or Windows or American) contest.

    I don’t worry about Ultra Fractal having a quenching effect on artistic style. In fact, the gallery of selected images can be used as a testament to the versatility of Ultra Fractal. All that’s missing are a few Moire patterns and canned filters.

    I don’t worry about people who aren’t up in arms about the whole thing being amateurs, because they are the professionals of the fractal art world. Who else has organized international traveling exhibitions, published academic and artistic works, and actually gotten paid for their fractal art?

    In short, while the contest is far from perfect, I don’t see much to worry about. I think it’s a great display of some of the best of our chosen genre and I’m proud to be involved with it.

    Kerry

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