BMFAC Announces Its Judging Panel

BMFAC Boy's Club 

A symbolic representation of the BMFAC judging panel.

[Photograph seen here.]

The 2011 Benoit Mandelbrot Fractal Art Contest (BMFAC) finally got around to releasing the names of its judges. They are:

Honorary Presidents:

Michael Barnsley
Aliette Mandelbrot

Panel Members:

Don Archer
Javier Barrallo
Cory Ench
Damien Jones
David Makin
Kerry Mitchell
Samuel Monnier
Paul Nylander
Joseph Presley
Jonathan Wolfe

As usual with all doings of later iterations of BMFAC, the announcement should be met with mixed feelings by anyone who prefers our community’s only major fractal art competition be run fairly and professionally.

Waxing Stuff:

There are no (overt) fractal software authors on this year’s panel — like the two prominent judges-authors who refused to resign from the 2009 BMFAC panel. This change removes significant conflicts of interest from continuing to taint the competition. I applaud this major step to better ensure fairness.

There are more fractal artists on the panel and fewer strict mathematicians. This move is also commendable and displays hopeful cultural evolution.

The shake-up of the selection panel does have some discernable benefits and adds a little credence to BMFAC’s claim that some of the judges are "prestigious." Jonathan Wolfe, for example, is a welcome addition. Dr. Wolfe is an expert in visual neuroscience and an educator known for "teaching diverse audiences about the concepts of Chaos Theory and fractals." Wolfe is also the force behind the flying fractal art balloons seen at Sky Dyes. I mentioned Wolfe in an OT post two years ago about Phase Two fractal art. It is my hope that Wolfe’s presence will help nudge BMFAC into better integrating a broader view of fractal art — one that moves beyond digital creations and embraces all fine arts mediums as well.

Cory Ench is an accomplished artist. I especially like his fantasy art as exemplified by his science fiction book covers and posters like those for Burning Man. I find his fractal art fairly conventional, but at least he works with flame fractals rather than BMFAC’s prevailing Ultra Fractal layered aesthetic. Ench’s presence offers a bit more hope (idiotic huge file size requirements aside) for artists submitting entries made using Apophysis, although it should be said that Ench is no stranger to BMFAC’s winner’s circle.

Between Phases:

The addition of Don Archer is a mixed blessing. One the one hand, I have long respected Archer for his dedicated efforts to bring digital art into the fine arts fold through his stewardship of the Museum of Computer Art (MOCA). Archer is not only a highly skilled artist, but also an established museum curator — something long advocated on OT that BMFAC needed. On the other hand, Archer has some roots in BMFAC director Damien Jones’s (has he dropped the "M"?) early contest enterprises, and that might partially explain why MOCA’s juried fractal art selections (but not algorithmic art) often trended towards the BMFAC/UF camp and featured artists like former BMFAC judge Janet Parke and BMFAC-winner, multiple Donnie-winner Rick Spix. Then again, sad to say, MOCA isn’t as compelling as it used to be. With the advent of MOCA’s AutoGallery, literally anyone with a free membership and uploading skills can now display their very unjuried work. A museum that invites, accepts, and shows all artists without a process of critical appraisal should no longer call itself a museum. MOCA is now something else. It has become, in fact, just another wing of Fractalbook.

Joseph Presley is an innovative artist, and his expertise with Xenodream should insure that entries made with that program might get a fair hearing. Then again, Presley is no stranger to UF conclaves or to BMFAC. You might recall that his 2009 winning entry, Tribute to JP, was an homage to Janet Parke who was, at the time, serving as a BMFAC judge.

Waning Stuff:

The judging panel is, if anything, more UF-laden than ever. By my count, at least seven, possibly eight of BMFAC’s panel of ten have roots in the Ultra Fractal community and/or have a connection to Jones’s close-knit inner circle. One-third of the panel currently does or has done some authoring work for Ultra Fractal. Such continued clinging to UF oversaturation shows BMFAC needs more diversity of software choice. Who will be surprised given the UF-heavy jury, coupled with the UF-friendly entry size requirements, if Ultra Fractal entries once again win the majority of exhibition spots?

I suppose it was inevitable Dave Makin would become a BMFAC judge. He’s long been BMFAC’s de facto spokesperson and chief apologist. In fact, he’s been talking up and about BMFAC a blue streak lately (see his multiple comments in recent OT posts). I guess it’s not unethical for a judge to be so fulsome — probably just tacky. But Makin’s ego won’t be contained, and I now consider him to be the official PR organ and press secretary of BMFAC. As far as I’m concerned, Makin’s word is BMFAC law, unless Jones comes out of his undisclosed location and corrects any utterance of Makin’s public flaking. I suppose Makin’s judgeship is BMFAC’s nod to the 3D fractal new wave. Makin, of course, writes 3D formulas for UF, but I wonder how the 3D artists over on FractalForums feel about the implied suggestion being made that all new 3D work be filtered first through UF.

BMFAC still needs a public disclaimer on its Rules page that any judge who has taught fractal art courses will recuse himself or herself from in any way evaluating or making recommendations on their present or former students’ work. Without such a written statement, potential conflicts of interests could presumably arise. Two of the current BMFAC judges have taught or are teaching such courses at the Visual Arts Academy.

And there was one other thing about the judging panel I was going to mention. What was it? Oh. Now I remember:

The BMFAC jury is all Ken -- no Barbie... 

What I actually said was: "Math class is tough." See, Ken, you can’t trust the accuracy of anything you find on the Internet these days.

[Image seen here.]

Even if one accepts the premise that fractal art can be a highly technical field, it’s quite a stretch to believe that Jones and his yet undisclosed sponsors could not field a single woman for a slot on the BMFAC selection panel. There are, really, plenty of talented and insightful female fractal artists to tap for the panel. A number of likely candidates can be seen in OT’s own Fractal Art Collection. Without representation from half the world’s gender, who’s going to forcefully argue in BMFAC’s shortlisting sessions for a massively cool potential entry like this:

Math class is the bomb... 

Hear me, sisters. Math class rocks.

[Photograph by Ritwik Dey and seen here.]

Barbie quit advancing the women-are-bad-at-mathematics stereotype many years ago. BMFAC should definitely follow her lead.