Hi there. I’m sponsoring BMFAC. Send appropriate entries accordingly.
[Image seen here.]
I guess the 2011 Benoit Mandelbrot Fractal Art Contest (BMFAC) slogs on. Here’s the latest scoops on what’s buzzworthy, overhyped, leaked out, historically revised, and outright laughable on the BMFAC front.
As of this writing, and with less than a month until the contest deadline, BMFAC has still not announced its sponsors. No big whoop, you say. I guess that depends on how much bearing these so far faceless sponsors have on the outcome of the competition. Dave Makin, BMFAC judge and (un)official spokesperson, suggested that sponsors could indeed help shape the winner’s circle in a recent OT comment:
As sponsors and exhibitions are finalised (as many as possible to be arranged for the chosen works) one or two more names may be added to the panel or at least require some input in the judging process because they care what they pay for and/or what gets exhibited in their space [emphasis Makin’s].
Makin is suggesting that additional panel members could still be added — presumably from the ranks of as-of-yet unannounced BMFAC sponsors and/or exhibition space bigwigs. It is exactly this kind of overt influence that directly results from funding art contests by sponsorship(s) rather than by collecting entry fees. It’s worth remembering that BMFAC’s sponsors have allegedly flexed their muscles before. In 2006, BMFAC director Damien Jones claimed that the competition’s sponsors insisted work by the judging panel also be exhibited beside the winning entries "as a hedge against insufficient quality" — a stupefying claim that managed to insult everyone who entered. Even if you assume the statement was merely an excuse for something Jones planned to do all along (as I did), the drawbacks of using sponsors for fine arts competitions should be self-evident. Such seemingly philanthropic benefactors can too easily mutate from benevolent sugar daddies to either get-our-money’s-worth "meddling kids" or convenient fall guys.
Still, some historical revisionists have a different, more halcyon view of BMFAC’s misty mountain morning founding. Cliff Tolputt, whose OT comments are starting to surpass Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past in scope (and when your comments start to surpass blog posts in length, isn’t it really time to start your own blog?), presents this rosy scenario for your consideration:
Frankly, I consider Damien (if it was only Damien) was extremely careful to preserve the reputation of sponsors when the best known artists/selectors were specifically invited to include pictures of their own to form a substantial part of the first exhibitions. Quality was thus best assured in the face of uncertainty.
That bias has now been naturally discontinued as the general quality of the entries is recognised as of sufficient standard.
Well, that’s one take on the situation. The BMFAC director was selfless and egoless, shielding his noble sponsors from the scourge of presenting substandard art, even to the point of risking loss of potential sainthood by reluctantly agreeing to be used as "a hedge." But, off the top of my head, here’s another take. Compensating art competition screener/judges with one-half of the exhibition space for their own work and hanging it beside that of the contest winners (twice!) is universally seen as an unimpeachably unethical and unprofessional practice. Such an amateurish action strongly suggests the contest was instituted as a publicity stunt designed principally to enhance the director’s/judges’ careers and reputations. Moreover, there is every reason to believe that BMFAC would have continued to exhibit its own administrators had not a certain blog-that-shall-not-be-named put considerable public pressure on BMFAC to abandon the practice.
Oh, but I forgot that
BMFAC Is Not a Fine Art Contest
because, according to Dave Makin in another OT comment, it’s something else entirely:
As I’ve said before those organising the BMFAC are doing so on a 100% voluntary basis – comparing it to Fine Art contests is simply irrelevant as they are generally organised by folks being paid to do so.
Conversely, I’d argue that BMFAC not being run like nearly every other art contest is very relevant. BMFAC’s director has deliberately chosen not to follow standard protocols — guidelines established to ensure fairness and avoid conflicts of interest — so he can get away with doing things like this:
–displaying his and other judges’ work in the exhibition in 2006 and 2007
–having fractal software authors serve as judges thus creating conflicts of interest and allowing potential financial or personal gain
–not having stated policies in place to prevent teacher-judges from recommending past or present students
–stacking the judging panel with users who write for or advocate or professionally use a specific software
–rigging the entry requirement to favor that same software at the expense of excluding other programs and approaches
You see, if BMFAC was actually run like other competitions, its director would never be able to pull off such overt shenanigans. The very reason art contest guidelines have become so predominately standardized is to ensure that chicanery like the above mischief-makings do not occur in the first place.
So, BMFAC should be more like a fine art contest and could take the first step by having
An Entry Fee
but I know this suggestion will not be popular in our community. And I understand and sympathize with Paul N. Lee‘s impassioned plea in a recent OT comment that establishing an entry fee would "eliminate some really fine examples of fractal graphics created by those with a limited income." I believe Lee’s heart is in the right place. And, to be clear, I don’t advocate such a fee in hopes of weeding out supposedly less serious contestants or to keep BMFAC from being clogged with more decorative kitsch than your typical giggly deviantART Fractalbook socializing space (although, yes, that would be nice). But an entry fee would have a ripple effect that would help take crucial steps to professionalize BMFAC.
Believe me. I don’t like paying such fees. Nobody does — especially given the current world economy. And I’m sorry that art contest fees are among the most expensive in the fine arts — usually ranging three times the amount of, say, literary contest fees. But such fees are a shrug-it-off fact-of-life for working professional artists. And this is an art contest, right? And you’re an artist, correct? Not a hobbyist or a dilettante or an amateur? Then, if you’re a pro engaged in a professional profession, you’d do well to begin accepting that profession’s trappings.
I’m talking to you, too, BMFAC. Move up professionally. Swap out those cranky, unpredictable sponsors for a set entry fee.
Here’s what you’ll gain immediately:
–Your screeners/judges should not have to volunteer their time and deserve to be paid for their expertise. And not by being hung in the expo with those they’ve judged but with monetary compensation. Entry fees provide fair recompense for services rendered.
–You’ll have autonomy over your own contest — and that’s important. No longer will the sponsors or the exhibit hall curators or the printmakers or the International Congress of Mathematicians or the ghost of Benoit Mandelbrot be able to exert undue influence over the results of your competition. Entry fees will cover the expenses, and never again will any outside party insist on having a say about what kind of art you want to show.
Except for us here at Orbit Trap.
That was a joke.
Not a good one, I gather, by your profound silence, dear reader.
And, really, on some level, I can’t believe I’m actually advocating this position — especially since I waver between considering Damien Jones to be as filled with beatitude as Mother Teresa or considering him to be a stonyhearted, self-promoting megalomaniac. Yeah. What a great idea. Let’s give Jones even more control and power, so he can turn his megalo up to maximum.
Still, in the end, it’s the right move. Because, my fractal art sisters and brothers, you should get what you pay for. Instead of getting what you’re getting now. Which is. What you’re not paying for.
Ultimately, I suppose my advocacy of a BMFAC entry fee is beside the point. BMFAC wants free admission and boatloads of entries, so it can then subsequently turn around and claim it’s both popular and significant. Just like every other Fractalbook site that lets everybody and their fractal dog in.
Have I left anything out of today’s slog? Uh-huh. Yes. I wanted to say something about
Those Mammoth Entry Fee Sizes
I’m discouraged from entering because of the strong (statistical) bias towards UltraFractal entries…
Huh. I wonder where he got that idea?
Fortunately, BMFAC judge and UF enthusiast extraordinaire Kerry Mitchell quickly showed up and used his considerable reasoning prowess to set Ludwig straight:
If Ultra Fractal entries tend to do well, maybe that’s related to UF’s popularity among fractal artists. If this were a general digital art contest, one might expect there to be a great many entries in which Photoshop had been used, but that wouldn’t mean that there was a PS bias.
Egad, Kerry. Brilliant! Oh, wait, no, no…
[Image seen here.]
With all due respect, I’d argue that in order for Mitchell’s analogy to be credible the following variables would have to be factored into it:
–the judging panel for that digital art contest has been and is still filled with Photoshop users
–the judging panel twice took up half of that digital art contest’s expo space with their own Photoshop art
–the primary author and marketer of Photoshop twice served as a judge for that digital art contest
–the director of that digital art contest helps author and openly advocates using Photoshop
–several judges of that digital art contest have taught online courses on how to use Photoshop
–some students who took those judges’ Photoshop courses have won exhibition slots in that digital art contest
–the entry requirements for that digital art contest are manipulated to favor Photoshop and exclude other graphics programs
but, other than these few minor discrepancies, Mitchell’s analogy is flawless.