The time is again upon us. The Benoit Mandelbrot Fractal Art Contest 2011 , is open for entry.
If you are interested in entering the contest, or interested in learning more, please visit: [link]
Normally, I would be quite enthusiastic, but there have been a number of issues raised regarding the contest that I feel need to be addressed. Specifically, the smear campaign started, and perpetuated by a little blog called Orbit Trap.
Normally, I don't place too much weight on what a few uninformed individuals have to say, but in light of recent events, I feel it would be less than proper not to offer my own perspective. As many of you know, Benoit Mandelbrot recently passed away, in mid October of last year. He was the Honorary Chairman of this contest. Many blanket statements made by Orbit Trap include Benoit in their scope, and I don't feel it pays proper homage to the man who literally spent his life on that which they claim to be defending. They have openly insulted him, others in his field, and anyone involved in the contest. What is worse, is it seems to be a perfectly good price to pay for a few hits to their blog. They ride the BMFAC keyword like a tardy messenger, on a fresh horse.
The BMFAC has not, as of yet, listed it's operational model, nor it's judges, and yet, Orbit Trap is already out in force. Closing with remarks that suggest that, simply to enter, would require you to put your ethics aside, or "Have no moral scruples whatsoever."
There have been a number of issues raised regarding the contest rules, that I feel are completely baseless. Rather than simply say they are wrong, I will try to explain why I think there might be more to this picture than meets the eye.
1) Image size requirements.
Orbit Trap constantly tries to tell it's readers that the contest is 'rigged'. One method they use to do so, is alluding that the image size requirements are far too high for the 'average' fractalist to achieve, and thus, are purposefully designed to dissuade entries. They go even further beyond this, to suggest that the image size requirements can only be met by specific software programs, and use this as a way to call into question the moral standpoint of the judges and organizers.
The technical standpoint is far too easy to prove, so let's look at it from the moral standpoint. Anyone on Deviant Art knows that high quality prints require high quality images. We are not living in the 80's anymore. Following this link: [link]
and (scrolling down to the 24x36 inch print line) will show that an image 2 feet, by 3 feet, will require 7200x10800 pixels for excellent quality, and 3600x5400 for minimum (poor) quality. The contest asks for 8000 pixels on the longest side to produce prints of the same size. What do these numbers show? Well, if you subtract the minimum size requirements, from the maximum, you get a requirement difference of 5400 pixels. Half of this is range, is 2700 pixels. If you add that to the minimum quality requirements, you reach the midpoint of 8100 pixels. It can only conclude that the organizers have opted for the mid-range, even though they probably could have pushed for better.
2) Ultra-Fractal Bias
Orbit trap also attempts to discredit the contest organizers by alluding to a bias towards Ultra-Fractal. They have, on a number of occasions, accused contest organizers of choosing pieces simply because they are made in Ultra-Fractal. Because the creator of the software was asked to serve as a judge for the contest, they often call into question Frederik Slijkerman ability to place a vote ethically. The slight of hand going on is fairly obvious if you know how the contest is set up. Frederik is but one judge... of many. The competition is weighted, and it would be fairly hard for Frederik to get away with doing something like that, even if he was the marketing monster Orbit Trap claims him to be. They further postulate that because many of the judges are ultra-fractal users themselves, that they do not have the ability to choose a piece that isn't made in their software of choice.
This is a logical fallacy in the extreme. It is no different than saying an artist who uses oil paint lacks the ability to judge a mixed media art contest. It's no different than saying a Photoshop user shouldn't ethically be allowed to judge a contest that allows gimp, or paintshop to be used.
Want in on a little secret? Chaos Pro Understands up to Ultrafractal 3.02 and can replicate most of it's features, including understanding it's formula database. From a technical side, there are many fractals that could have been made in Chaospro that mimic precisely the look and feel of an Ultra Fractal setup. (It's also available free at: [link]
Want in on another? Images like Polychromic: [link]
are rendered a layer at a time, and assembled in Photoshop. I discovered something amazing really. Seems Photoshop allows you to work in layers! Seems the inability for other fractal programs to work in layers doesn't carry much weight now that Photoshop has been invented.
But why leave it there? Another 'secret' to fractal art is that your renders are mathematically precise. This means that if you are intelligent enough to operate a calculator, you can divide your render into chunks. This means, I could render a piece at 80,000 pixels wide if I really wanted too. No matter what the render limits on your fractal software, if you understand simple things like render bounds, you can alter your workflow easily to accommodate billboard size images and beyond.
3) Marketing Failure
Orbit trap also faults BMFAC for marketing their images in the real physical world, rather than online. Stating with unequivocal certainty that marketing online is the only way to operate, and that physical world endeavors are a paltry waste of time. Yes. They said that. About Art. I really wish I were kidding. Seems if you are interested in making art, it is a waste of time to commit it to paper. Looks a lot like they are already whipping that aforementioned horse.
4) Cliques and How Unwelcome You are
The writers over at Orbit Trap are a very peculiar, very paranoid pair. You wouldn't be able to win a spitting contest without them accusing you of cheating. One of the ways they accuse people of cheating is by grouping them together into imaginary cliques. If you win the Benoit, you are obviously part of the group, and your work holds no merit. This is another assumption that fuels much of their hate laced articles. They don't realize that their blanket statements alienate people, leading them to the very feelings they are experiencing.
I have personally entered twice, and both times I was lucky enough to have an entry chosen. I never exchanged emails with any of the judges or organizers before the event, and was only in contact with Javier Barrallo when dealing with the contest particulars. I worked very hard to make my entries and it certainly was not a cursory endeavor. I made almost fifty pieces last time the contest was run, before I finally chose the two I would enter. If I had known all I had to do was buddy up, I could have saved myself some time. At least the insults would be warranted and would probably sting a bit less.
Fact is, even I have been accused of being part of this imaginary clique, from people who know nothing about me, or who my friends are. I wish I were unique in this regard.
5) The Organizers are Self Serving
Orbit trap would have us believe that the contest organizers and judges are no more than self serving ,attention mongers; whose only interest is in the sale of their own prints and software. Often making statements like "Because, like self-publishing, self-produced art exhibitions of yourself and your friends tend to be less respected and even frowned upon in most professional circles." I doubt very much they are anywhere near a professional circle, nor have ever been. This type of exhibition is commonplace, and I personally believe that Orbit trap is a bit disconnected on the matter.
I can tell you from experience that I was never approached by a contest organizer regarding print sales as part of this competition. It would be very difficult indeed to place some pieces up for sale, while making others unavailable. That being said, I would imagine that if there were any sort of leverage being used to sell prints, the winners would be asked where print inquiries could be directed, and as a general rule, some sort of commission agreement would be in place. I was asked if the BMFAC could display my images, not if they could sell them.
6) That anyone who defends the BMFAC is working in concert with the BMFAC and being rewarded for it.
Make no mistake, anyone who attempts to discuss these matters with Orbit Trap is a "propagandist".
There is a rule in life. Beware the accuser. Some people hide behind accusations to deflect negative personal attention, and the most effective tact is to accuse others of that which you yourself are guilty. This is, I believe, the case with Orbit Trap, who are quite good at propaganda themselves. It is a pretty harsh judgement to make, I agree, but it isn't without merit. If you visit their blog, you will notice they have worked very hard on the format. Keywords are everywhere. It's one of the main themes of the blog. Rather than mention the BMFAC when it is relevant, they work very hard to mention it time and time again, at least twice a month. Experienced bloggers will recognize this technique immediately.
7) Mathematicians do not have the ability to Judge art.
One of Orbit Traps favorite arguments is that Mathematicians don't have the ability to judge art. That "Mathematicians are boneheads when it comes to art. That's why they aren't in an arsty profession, they're mathematicians academics and theorists."
If you are an artist, don't do any math. Better, don't read anything math or physics or science related for the rest of your life, because it may have the life altering effect of removing your ability to appreciate beauty. This is a common argument made by people who don't understand math or physics. Learning something about the inner workings or mechanisms of an object or process can only lend it more beauty.
The list literally goes on and on.. and on.. and on...
So, why take the time to write all this? Well, not so much that I really care about what OT has to say about me. I am here, and able to defend myself against their stupidity. Benoit however, is not. What I care most about, is that when you go to a search engine, and type in BMFAC, you get article after article, literally upwards of two a month or more, attempting to smear the competition. It has gone from a cursory heads up, to an all out campaign, and I simply can't sit idly by while they spread lies so soon after Benoit's death. I personally view it as the lowest form of attack and I believe Benoit deserves better.
Even before the competition existed, the Orbit Trap bloggers were attacking Damien Jones, and it has only escalated since it was first publicized. It seems that the Orbit Trap bloggers have a personal dispute with the contests creator, and have used the guise of being gallant to continue it. In doing so, they have unwittingly offended multitudes of people, and cast doubt on one of the last projects Benoit was associated with.
I will close with the following Orbit Trap quote,
"Benoit Mandelbrot might have had a (passing) interest in the artistic application of fractal geometry, but that was years ago when fractals were fresh and revolutionary."
Followed by the preface from the last BMFAC written by Benoit Mandelbrot.
[ As a young man during a dreadful period of history, I found safe refuge in very ambitious plans and hopes. I wished to devote my life to the picture deprived fields of mathematics or science. But I also wished to keep aside enough time for something different - namely, enjoyment of plastic art and music. Not as a creator, but as an active amateur. Now that I am an old man, it is wonderful to observe, not only that those plans have been fulfilled well enough, but have been fulfilled with an unanticipated and wonderful wrinkle. Fractal geometry - my life's work - has managed to combine very difficult mathematics, very useful science... and also a dash of a new flavor of art. A menage a trois has arisen between elegant thoughts, directly applicable thoughts, and plain pleasure of the eye. Could it really be that such an intimate coexistence has not been seen since the early Renaissance?
How did all that begin? Very modestly, when my first "solo" book of 1975 introduced the word "fractal" and outlined a new geometry. A great privilege had been granted to me, since I was the first to recognize a feature that had been - since time immemorial - common to many bits of knowledge, but had remained scattered all over and kept being forgotten and being rediscovered. What I recognized was that those nameless bits of knowledge were - in fact - as closely related as peas from one pod. Together, they provided a foundation on which I, and soon many others, could start building a brand new and extraordinarily belated theory for broad and practical properties of roughness.
In addition - miracle! - even that was not all. Not all by any means. In order to explain the wide acceptance of the word "fractal" and of my scientific ideas, one may recall the ancient theme of The Beauty and the Beast. When scientists perceive most of science as beautiful, they use this last term metaphorically. To the contrary, first I, then colleagues at work, and soon later many witnesses, felt early on that my scientific work brought out pictures that are beautiful in both usual and unusual meanings of that word.How come?
This question can not be discussed here in any detail. But let me make a wild guess about the world as perceived by humans. Flat planes and cubic buildings had easily been integrated into the familiar elementary geometry. But mountains, trees, and old buildings had not. More generally, real objects are so complicated that standard geometry fits them very rarely. The very belated next step beyond Euclid is represented by fractals.
Thirty five years after my book of 1975, my early pictures have become antiques. Fractals have grown like topsy and the web brings us an ever fresh flow of increasingly sophisticated and independent art.
To the aesthetic side of my implemented dreams, the organizers of the Fractal Art Contest - Javier Barrallo, Damien Jones, and the Selection Panel Members - have added an exhilarating contribution. We are fortunate that the burden enjoyed of selecting of some of today's best should reside in their good eye. The third exhibit of fractal art is coming close, and it has been a delight to provide a brief preface to the present striking catalog. ]