Things More Pleasant Than Thinking About BMFAC Again
Dave Makin sent me a personal email to let me know the 2011 Benoit Mandelbrot Fractal Art Contest (BMFAC) has been announced. I guess he wanted to be sure I got the good news.
If you read this blog regularly, you already know how we feel about this so-called competition. If you aren’t an OT regular, then please search "BMFAC" and immerse yourself in the contest’s history of corruption, conflicted interests, unprofessionalism, hypocrisy, and insufferable self-promotion.
If you still support BMFAC after objectively examining all that we have painstakingly outlined, then nothing more I say will sway you. You are obviously comfortable putting your own potential self-interests over everything else — including professional ethics, private morality, a sense of fair play, and the best interests of our art form. In this regard, you will fit in nicely with the people who administer this contest. Like you, their chief concern is to feather their own nests and further their own self-serving agenda.
But since Makin took the trouble to reach out, I might as well take a few general questions from the gathered crowd:
Why have the sponsors and the "selection panel" not yet been announced?
I don’t know. The directors of BMFAC are known for being highly secretive. I guess they figure the less you know the better. I do know that any fine arts competition that won’t tell you up-front its funding sources or who is judging the entries should be regarded as suspicious. How can one best cater an entry while having no idea who will be reviewing it? If the sponsors have not been finalized and the judges are not yet selected, then the contest should never have been publicly announced. But BMFAC rarely operates under conventional or professional protocols.
Perhaps BMFAC director Damien M. Jones is just getting ahead of himself. Or maybe he wants to deliberately delay the announcement of the judges for his own purposes. Twice before he’s allowed BMFAC judges to show their work and gobble up half of the "contest" exhibition space. Last year, when only the contest winners were hung, might have been less than satisfying for Jones and his crowd who had to swallow a bitter pill and forego their usual self-promotion spotlight.
Will the judging panel again be riddled with blatant conflicts of interest?
That depends. Will Jones again allow software authors (like the creators of Ultra Fractal and Apophysis) to serve as judges thus setting up the potential for them to reap financial and/or personal benefits? Last year, one such judge of good conscience sensibly resigned. The remaining two who refused to leave in the face of such conflicts of interest are presumably more self-interested than sensible and cannot be shamed.
Will mathematicians again be used as judges?
Oh, no doubt. Mathematicians, not artists, are fractal art’s celebrities. Why bother with procuring the usual elitist snobs like museum curators or art historians? It clearly makes more sense to have art contests peer-reviewed by people who know little or nothing about art.
Will the exhibition be better publicized than it was last time?
Maybe — but only if the judges’ work is again allowed into the exhibition, thus making such promotional efforts more beneficial to those who run the contest rather than those who actually win it.
Why does the contest insist that winning entries will have to be submitted at such massive sizes?
They’ll tell you the huge sizes are necessary to ensure "lots of good, interesting fractal detail" or other such nonsense. It’s all bullshit. Exhibitions of digital photographs are seldom exhibited at picture-window size, and photographs are filled with "interesting detail." Last year’s "information hallway" BMFAC exhibit in India featured fairly small prints that could have been made at one-fourth the size BMFAC demands. The size requirements are there for one reason only: to privilege Ultra Fractal because it scales images easily. UF and its users have made up the majority of BMFAC’s winners — just as UF is the established program of choice for the directors and most of the artist-judges. Please understand that the contest is just an excuse to better perpetuate the careers of the administrators and to further implement and maintain their prevailing aesthetics of fractal art. It’s all a self-fulfilling cycle. Most BMFAC prize-winning entries are conveniently made with UF and selected by self-proclaimed "prestigious" artists-judges who also just happen to predominately use UF. Rinse. Repeat. A con is born.
What can I do to better insure my chances of winning a slot in the exhibition?
Don’t be an ethical worrywart. Have no moral scruples whatsoever. Think only of yourself. Use UF obviously and make the conventional layered monstrosities popularly associated with the program. Ask yourself: what would Janet Parke do (WWJPD) and consciously imitate her work. Better yet, have taken a UF course with her and submit images you created under her tutelage. Hopefully, she’ll again be a judge, recognize your work, and show you favor. Remember, BMFAC isn’t bound by those pesky rules most art contests have to follow — like having explicit clauses forcing judges to recuse themselves in compromising circumstances like the one I outlined above.
I’ll take one more question. Yes. You in the back.
Will Dave Makin win a fourth consecutive BMFAC exhibition slot thus pushing overt favoritism to even higher stratospheric levels?
Makin is the competition’s chief apologist and has previously been well rewarded for his services as a willing propagandist. There’s no reason to assume this year’s contest will be any different — on any level.