Responses at Fractal Forums.com to the recent announcement of the Benoit Mandelbrot Fractal Art Contest 2011 suggest to me that a lot of things have changed in the fractal art world since the BMFAC was initiated back in… ¡Ay, caramba! –2006!
~ Click on images to go to original site ~
Fractal Ken hit the nail on the head. Will the organizer’s, Damien Jones’s hand picked fractal art “experts” from the old days fully appreciate or even know much about the 3D fractal revolution? Fractalforums.com where these comments were posted is the place all those 3D discoveries and advancements were announced and discussed; it’s natural that folks there need some convincing that the BMFAC has any real relevance to what they see as the mainstream fractal art form today –3D fractals.
Here at Orbit Trap we’ve gained a reputation for criticizing the BMFAC primarily because of their choice of judges and how those judges (used to) give themselves winning positions in the contest by adding their work to the exhibition. But now, the sneaky way the judges have been chosen (and stayed on for years) raises a new question, “Are the judges even competent to judge today’s 3D fractals?”
One of the most stunning developments in the 3D revolution was the sudden appearance of high quality fractal programs devoted to the new 3D fractal artform. Ultra Fractal (whose author is a judge) isn’t the program of choice for the new breed of 3D fractal artists. What relevance do all those veteran UF artists and programmers have when it comes to being experts in judging artwork that wasn’t made with UF and which the judges themselves have no expertise in? What exactly are they “experts” of anymore? Old style (2D) fractal art made by people like themselves?
I suppose Damien could add a few folks like Jesse Dierks (Jesse) or Krzysztof (buddhi) Marczak the authors of Mandelbulb 3D and Mandelbulber. Or how about Christian Kleinhuis the owner and host of Fractalforums.com (3D fractal central)? He’s had his finger on the pulse of 3D fractals as long as anyone. There’s a bunch of others too, like Tom Lowe (recent “Nobel” prizewinner) and others who are all equally qualified to judge the quality and importance of 3D fractals because that’s their chosen area of expertise in fractal art.
Of course, that’s the typical BMFAC way of doing things. What would be even better is to approach some ART people who might be better qualified to judge ARTwork. But as Terry so eloquently said, “Mathematicians are the celebrities of fractal art”. And I guess Math Conferences are the Paris cafes of fractal art. Hey, maybe Jeremie Brunet? Aka “bib”. He’s from Paris, or close to it. One French artist is as good as 10 math Phds. Maybe 1000? He’s had his own public exhibitions (in Paris, too) and been on TV. (I wonder how he did that without any help from Benoit Mandelbrot’s name or any sponsors?) How many of the so-called “expert” judges of the BMFAC have done any of that?
Perhaps good fractal art doesn’t need a contest (or a celebrity name) to promote it?
3D fractals have indeed been around for decades. I think what’s being referred to is the recent ‘discovery’ of mandelbulb and 3D becoming much more mainstream than it previously was. In that regard, it needs to be pointed out that the mandelbulb had very recently came out of fractalforums when the 2009 contest was over – see at what stage it was at the time of the contest deadline (http://www.fractalforums.com/3d-fractal-generation/true-3d-mandlebrot-type-fractal/300/). Despite that, a mandelbulb image by David Makin (http://www.fractalartcontests.com/2009/showentry.php?entryid=250&return=winners), despite being a rather dull image imho, was among the winners, which I interpret as recognizing and encouraging the new medium (he also had a UF entry in there – must have slipped the jury’s attention there, no other explanation). On top of that, there were some brief demonstrations of the mandelbulb at some of the exhibitions and in the images and videos distributed to the local news agencies that featured those exhibitions (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rZdYgZUPhYA&feature=player_embedded). So I think the past judges have shown quite enough enthusiasm about the Mandelbulb and the new generation of 3D fractals. As for the current contest, I can’t see any good intentions in smearing the jury and questioning its ability to judge 3D before the jury has even been formed.
and just because for some reason i’m irrationally paranoid about you mentioning david makin having won features in previous contests as well, that is not relevant to the particular issue of a new generation 3D fractal feature as he was the only person who had submitted a mandelbulb image.
“I can’t see any good intentions in smearing the jury and questioning its ability to judge 3D before the jury has even been formed.”
–Suggesting they include some 3Ders from Fractalforums isn’t a good thing?
And Dave’s Mandelbulb image was junk, which proves my point that the judges don’t know what they’re looking at when it comes to 3D. I don’t know why Dave submitted that one; he had much better stuff than that online. If they want a good exhibition they should be searching out the best stuff online instead of holding some silly contest and handing out prizes like it was an agricultural fair. But the BMFAC has never been about exhibiting the best art.
The point was, there wasn’t anything to compare it to and to judge, but they still wanted to give recognition to the emerging medium, which was part of your (and fractalforum’s) concern – how 2D ‘masters’ will react to the new 3D fractals.
We don’t yet have any data on what their preferences will be like when the 3D fractals have decent competition within themselves, and that is why I found your post overly aggressive. Suggesting new members is one thing (and fair), attacking the jury in the process with no ground is another.
After the 2009 contest was over I was informed that two of my entries were actually shortlisted, one essentially on pure artistic grounds and the other more because the particular contest (as both Tim and Terry know) was geared towards the Mathematicians Congress and choosing an image involving the “Mandelbulb” (name only introduced *after* I initially submitted the entry) was deemed correct in that context – i.e. because that image along with “The Twisted Land” were the only entries that demonstrated (for the first time) that the Mandelbulb method did indeed produce fractals that are truly fractal in more than 2 dimensions.
Also only one image per artist was allowed as a “winner” i.e. to be exhibited.
Personally I would have preferred it if the other option of my shortlisted work had been chosen – “Jules Verne’s Journey” – as I much prefer that work myself, but I concede that choosing the Manmdelbulb image was probably better given the context of the contest – had it not been chosen certainly some of the exposure of the Mandelbulb to the world in general would have been lost – at the very least with respect to Spanish TV.
shortlisted? one winning entry per artist?
Thanks for shedding some light on the judging process, Dave. It sounds like it’s more complex than I thought. They could clear up a lot by speculation just by telling us all what they do.
@Tim – I’m not sure the method used has been consistent as I was not privvy myself to the internal methods used other than being told the above after the 2009 contest, I have no idea if 2006 and 2007 were judged in a similar manner – though I’d guess they were.
Further to my last post, here’s a quote from Javier Barrello (with permission):
“I remember very well Jules Verne’s Journey. It was my favorite image from the contest. But we also noticed that the 3D image was fantastic (and it rendered really good).
Being the main exhibit in a Congress of Mathematicians we considered that it should be there over Jules more for the scientific interest and the novelty than its beauty.
Seen today with enough perspective, we took the correct decision. During my stay in India more than half of the questions were focused on that image.
Obviously now it looks poor compared with the very new 3D images but it was exhibited in front of 6000 mathematicians from all over the world including the president of India and for most people it was the first time they heard about “Mandelbulbs”. From a scientific point of view it was a great contribution to fractals, although I am still in love with Jules Verne’s Journey…”
A little more on the “shortlisting” – just to emphasize that the shortlisting itself does involve the whole panel, but at that stage there is no interplay/discussion between the panel members, simply a scoring system. The shortlist then quite simply consists of those that got the highest scores and at that point the panel discusses which images should actually be exhibited. Of course the number of images shortlisted depends on how many high quality entries there are that particular year.
I didn’t know this before this year myself, but it’s interesting to find that it’s essentially the same method as that used by BBC series when they have an art or photo contest (e.g. Nature Watch, Country File etc.).