“I know you are but what am I?”
Photograph seen on SodaHead.
This is part of a continuing series that began with a review of an article on deviantART entitled “People who’s [sic] Fractals SUCKED!!!” The series focuses on responding to criticisms raised by some of the DA fractal art “masters” to the review, and focuses on some specific rebuttals and the manner in which they were made. For background, please refer to my original review, “Fractals That Suck,” as well on the first follow-up post in the series, “Fractals That Suck Redux — Part One” that addressed the issue of the “fair use” clause in copyright law and its understanding that copyrighted images can be used in the context of a review or critique.
Part Two: Kill the Messenger
Historically, delivering bad news has proved a risky business. Omnipotent Wikipedia explains why:
In ancient times, messages were delivered in person by a human envoy. Sometimes, as in war, for example, the messenger was sent from the enemy camp. An easily-provoked combatant receiving such an overture could more easily vent anger (or otherwise retaliate) on the deliverer of the unpopular message than on its author, thus literally killing the messenger. In modern usage, the expression still refers to any kind of punishment meted out to the person bringing bad news, but has taken on an ironic dimension as well.
It brought me no joy to be the bearer of bad news about the fractal state of affairs at deviantART. Still, in almost every case, DA members responded to my critique not by addressing the contentions I’d made, but by attacking me personally, and doing so from a number of fronts.
Front One: My art sucks, so where do I get off passing judgment on anybody else’s art.
Before posting stuff like this, make sure your own art isn’t just a bunch of brushes, third-grade fractals and photoshop filters.
suggesting that because my own work more fittingly belongs in elementary school that I somehow forfeit my right to both have an opinion and to freely express it.
Borodin returns later in the same post to expand his critical assessment of my art
But then again, if I should do a critique of your works, i would say “Generic, eyesoring colours, low quality and messy” I would also add “Looks like something that has been HEAVILY filtered in photoshop.
that, to his credit, does elaborate a bit on the generalities suggested in his first critique. I’ll circle round to address his implied criticism of Photoshop filters later in this series.
Meanwhile, the act of reviewing the reviewer thrives over at DA and arguably marks a milestone: the appearance of actual negative criticism of fractals on Fractalbook. Fiery-Fire, aka Iwona Fido, author of the sucking/rocking DA article(s), says
They [Tim and I?] not really, that perceptive as artists neither, if you have a look at their own gallery [meaning mine, I think, since Tim and I don’t share one] of ‘so called’ fractals – at first glance I felt pity …
but doesn’t supply concrete examples of pitifulness like Borodin does. And there are other scattered potshots littered among the DA comment threads. So, given the barbs, how do I feel about these critiques of my work? Well…
Well…I’ll have to suck it up, shrug my shoulders, and carry on. If I can dish it out, I’d better be ready to take it. Freedom of speech cuts both ways.
Now, do I enjoy having my work trashed? Of course not. Who among us truly prefers criticism to praise? But I’m fairly comfortable in my own skin. As I writer, I got used to receiving criticism early in life. Rejection slips are unavoidable and toughened me up. I just move on to the next image or poem or blog post or whatever. I trust my instincts and hope my vision is true. As for criticism, I’ll take it, if I feel it is valid. If not, I try to let it drop away and not get in the way of creating new work. As for praise, I’m grateful to receive it, pleased that people like what I did, but I’m sometimes wary of its motive and always aware of its appeal. Compliments, nice as they can be, should not be allowed to get in the way of creative work either. One should not need praise to feel a sense of accomplishment or as any kind of a motivator to begin work on a new/next piece. And, frankly, I think a constant stream of compliments can be counterproductive — especially if praise become addictive, or should the number of compliments make it impossible to pick out friends from flatterers.
Besides, criticism has some benefits. It can tone up your work. When creative writing comes back rejected, that’s a good time to look it over, again, with new eyes. Put it through a few more iterations to improve the concept or composition or other elements. In other words, revise. Then send out again to the next editor.
The publishing process has the advantage of keeping earlier iterations of not-quite-polished creative writing in the hands of editors and not yet seen by the public. This allows art to better season. The disadvantage of Fractalbook is that everything falls instantly into the laps of clique members — who may feel in competition with you or have other ulterior motives. Worse, there’s never any motivation to rethink or revise any given posted image. Look at the length of that comment thread. Listen to all those oohs and aahs and pats on the back. Every piece arrives fully realized — perfect — just like all the others. After all, not just anyone can be called a “master?”
Front Two: Name-Calling.
I once wrote an OT post about Fractalbook. In it, I traced the origins of online art communities and observed:
Fractalbookers think Fractalbook has noble, even highbrow origins. Something like a quilting bee or a debating society. But even more cultured. Like maybe their own personal Louvre where each Fractalbooker can be both artist and patron. Master craftsman and astute critic. Philosopher-king and mountain mystic. Pablo Picasso and Robert Hughes.
But an Art Pantheon is not the blueprint for Fractalbook. It has roots in a much more familiar model.
But I may have set the social development bar too high. The level of discourse coming out from the DA “masters” is often more in the range of a third-grader (ironically, according to Borodin, the prime audience for appreciating my work). Consequently, the rhetorical complexity of most responses rarely rises above a third-grader’s well-known favorite counter-taunt: I know you are but what am I?
After all, if you can’t counter or refute someone’s contentions, just insult them or call them names. Let’s go to the video tape:.
grinning as ever!, who later calls me a “thief,” says
Just a knit picking bore! I had loads of fun making fractals! So whats it to you..Mr lonely!
although, personally, I do not consider the pervasiveness of conformity at DA, seen in the replication of design and ornamentation of style in at least 70 DA “masters,” to be “knit-picking.” I’d consider such a situation more like a viral outbreak of abidance. And I’m sure you had fun making fractals. I’m sure you enjoyed the praise each received, too. I just suggested that one of those fractals might not necessarily rise to the level of being art.
And what’s one to make of the following paradox? Borodin says I am “a complete douche” and then turns around and tells me to “have a nice night.” I’m getting mixed messages here, so I figure it’s a toss up. But there’s no mistaking how Georg Kiehne (Xyrus02) feels:
I’ve heard of your writings in the past but no article has disgusted me more than this. Why do you even read postings on deviantART if you hate it that much? Can it be that there is an attention-addict child on the other line craving for stuff it could rape by twisting others words like the medium-class spirals I see all over this place?
Maybe it’s good I can’t quite ferret out the meaning here. Am I the “attention-addict child?” Or am I raping children? Or just raping images? Or maybe raping ideas? At any rate, I hope this is all just a hyperbolic misfire. If not, I find it offensive.
And the above is just what a few of the “masters” will say to your face in the home of your own blog. Back in the lair of the “masters,” within the paper-thin cyber-walls of DA, here’s how IDeviant feels:
As for those wankstains trapped in their own pathetic little orbits, I wouldn’t give them the steam off my fucking piss, let alone the dignity of a reply to their lily-livered vitriol
I want to point out, just for the record, that no one here at Orbit Trap was seeking that particular item in the first place. Even so, the remark does seem more than a little…uncongenial. You’d think Ms. Fire, who initiated the post, would want to take steps to turn down the heat a bit. But you’d be wrong. She replies that
Few people from DA ‘reads’ their blog and they commonly known as obsessive ‘trolls’ or attention whores, who are well known for being nasty and mean.
That should definitely help to put out the torches and put down the pitchforks. And, now that I’m cognizant of being an attention whore, let me call attention to how she concludes her remarks
Maybe it’s true, guys with ‘flashy-sporty cars’ do make-up for other things they don’t have in the traps case is ‘talent’
because it brings me to the next category which is
Front Three: Call in the Shrink
If you can’t refute someone’s argument, but can’t bring yourself to stoop to name-calling, then just play armchair psychiatrist. Since I disagree with you “masters,” I obviously must be insane, neurotic/psychotic, or somehow psychologically traumatized. In Ms. Fire’s analogy above, it’s clear that the OT bloggers are mentally scarred by having noxious attributes and a truckload of personality defects. We “drive” a hotshot blog because (down deep) we know we are hacks as artists. In other words, we overcompensate for ever-so-obvious moral or physical shortcomings. Well, I think I can see what DA’s Junior Freudians are implying
Yeah . Ha . And I bet “Mr. Animal” has a tiny dick, too . Ha Ha .
which, I guess, is pretty funny — if you’re a third-grader.
Unless, of course, you prefer a much more infant-based, pre-verbal humor like that of grinning as ever! who, as a clinically-based comedian but unskilled typist, conjectures:
gdzsjkvirnsvjxnh kdfojvzx/locji z kiasdfuvhylsa,cjkhzkudrfhzdfvj ghskobx.n
But, make no mistake, there’s no shortage of possible psychiatric profiles. Another favorite, and one long preferred by OT’s detractors, is the “sour grapes” diagnosis — in which OT’s bloggers are either bitter for not winning BMFAC, or in a rage for not placing in the Fractal Universe Calendar, or are too moody and socially stunted to fit into DA’s social scene and so lash out at their betters, or some other scenario I’d never consider ever wanting in the first place. Here’s a textbook example from rocamiadesign who says
OGM! I just read the blog, critiqueing your articles and then followed your link to the blogger’s “art”. Ewwwwwww! I think that he’s just spewing vitriol because he’s jealous of artists whose work actually sells.
meaning, for those of you keeping score at home, that I’m a loser — both as an artist and as an entrepreneur. Since I now assume rocamiadesign’s work, in contrast to mine, sells, why don’t we take a look at it:
Precious by rocamiadesigns
No!!! She outflanked me with the cute kitty maneuver. And public taste being what it is, and given the prevailing aesthetics of mass culture, I cannot recover. I yield the field to a superior enterpriser.
Sometimes, two of the “masters,” highly trained headshrinkers, surely with advanced degrees in neuroscience, consult and come to a consensual assessment, as Dr. Borodin reports what he and his distinguished colleague have concluded:
Reading your articles (not that me or Iwona or anyone else wants revenge or anything like that….)we have concluded that you are not writing an review about the fractal community, you are boosting your own pitiful little ego of yours.
You know, Doc, calling me “a complete douche” is not exactly helping my self-esteem issues. So, I think I’ll get a second opinion.
Other times, for the more gifted wannabe analysts, the psychological insights can rival those of Dr. Phil. Like Dr.IDeviant, who, putting aside his urinary tract temperature for the moment, offers this extended prognosis without even the benefit of sitting in numerous talking cure sessions with me:
My ‘shrooms! And I just couldn’t resist a little tirade against the OT crew. I suspect a background in weak political activism or some such, the psychology is so obvious and repetitive, like precocious adolescents revelling in their new-found pseudo-intellectualism whilst simultaneously shit-stirring at the fringe of the community they just cannot join due to their own misanthropy. A serious critic would never adopt that tone without first having been personally humiliated at the hands of the target
So I’m a product of my environment, huh. Too much social concern and education? That’s my problem? So I act out by conducting guerilla raids on DA because I’m too much of a misanthropic sourpuss to actually fit in with the other DA kewl kidz as they call each other an artistic “master” and stroke one another’s egos in the hopes of having theirs stroked in return?
I think all those other egos, each calling themselves “a master,” are probably crying out for help more loudly than mine. And listen, Dr ID. After you write me up a scrip for Zoloft to mellow out my tone problem, do you think you could help out that guy above who thinks I’m a rapist before he does decide he actually wants some of that revenge Dr. Iwona and Dr. Borodin say does not interest them? Thanks. Much appreciated. Now…about the bill…
So, gentle readers, keep obsessively clicking your mouse like a TV remote and join us for our next exciting OT episode of Fractals That Suck Redux entitled: “Text vs Subtext” — plus, for your further enjoyment, a special bonus short called “Who Really Uses Shoddy Tools?” Until then…
P.S. To be fair, I should add that not every critical response to my post was pitched to a third-grade level. Comments made by Esin Turkakin and chiaraLinde, for example, were civil, thoughtful, and welcomed — even if I did not always completely agree with all of their points.
Tags: fractal, fractals, fractal art, fractalbook, fractals that suck, fractals that suck redux, calling dr borodin, calling dr ideviant, kill the messenger, i’m rubber you’re glue, shrink this why dontcha, cruelanimal, orbit trap