06 March 2008


Hold the phone!! The fractal art world is being monopolized.

Well, at least that is what is being alleged by a self appointed, and self important, whistleblower. Okay, monopolies are generally considered a bad thing. So, lets look a little deeper and find out how serious the situation really is.

"In the fractal art world however, control over contests, calendars and just about everything else has become monopolized. The "official" face of fractal art is nothing more than a clique who use that "official" status as an opportunity to promote themselves -- an opportunity which they could never have gained on the artistic merits of their work alone. The monopoly is maintained by the intimidating influence felt by anyone else who wants to gain recognition in an art form which the clique claims to represent and whose most publicly visible examples they administer as their private fiefdom."
Wow, this sounds quite serious. We can't have this. It isn't fair. It's wrong. It's discriminatory. Something has to be done. But, wait...

I think the writer is talking about the Fractal Universe calendar. Does one calendar a monopoly make? Is it a monopoly because the writer has never had an image selected for the calendar? Has the writer ever submitted an image for consideration for the calendar? Is it a monopoly because the calendar publisher (you know, the people putting money at risk for the calendar) made a deal with a couple of people to be editors that guarantees them at least one image in the calendar? Has the writer ever considered publishing his own calendar? Oh, I forgot, the monopoly is not allowing him to do that.

I bet the writer is also talking about the Benoit Mandelbrot Fractal Art Contest (BMFAC). Oh yes, I've heard about that one. That must be the one where invited judges absconded with nearly 40% of the wall space in that exhibition that took place last summer in Spain. I think the organizer of that event invited the judges. I'm sure he was part of the monopoly as well. The sponsors probably were to. Those people with the money at risk really do control things. I guess this really is bigger than I thought. It's not just a monopoly, it's an international conspiracy.

Hmmmm. Did the writer submit any images for consideration for that exhibition? I'm sure he thought about it, but decided against it because of the monopoly that was rigged against him from the start. Or, perhaps it was because only Ultra Fractal images were selected. But, wait, there were several non-UF images selected so that must not be it. Ah, he must have been intimidated and was scared to enter images.

I hope the writer will find the time to detail "just about everything else" that is being monopolized. I'd really like to know what else is being controlled. I hate monopolies as much as the writer, so we need to be informed so we can take action. Oh, I forgot, he's probably referring to the 40% of available web space that a single individual has control over. If that is the case, it is indeed serious. 40% is too much for one person. Perhaps we can restrict him to at most 5%. But wait, how do we even determine the percent of web space one controls?

I do sense some irony in the assertion, "an opportunity which they could never have gained on the artistic merits of their work alone". How does the writer know this? Is this just a swipe at the "clique"? Is it jealousy? Envy? Is the writer comparing his works of "art" to those of the "clique"? Interesting questions, methinks.
Someone has to be the one to blow the whistle on all this if there is going to be any hope of changing the perception and attitudes amongst people in the fractal art world who, if they had knowledge of these things, could easily act to change the way things are run.
Boy, I'm glad someone has finally seen fit to do this. Maybe there is hope after all. I hope the writer will let everyone know if he is intimidated or in any way prevented from publishing his own calendar or entering into a venture with others to publish a calendar.

I also hope that he will let everyone know if he, or anyone else, is prevented from organizing and conducting a contest. It is a terrible thing to have a monopoly that only allows a single contest or a single calendar to exist. Someone must take action and try to break this monopoly. Perhaps there is a congressman somewhere that can take up this cause and conduct a special congressional hearing to determine how far this monopoly extends.

I just had a grand idea. Perhaps a congressman could create a special earmark so that a contest can be held for images generated with any program or method except Ultra Fractal. We'll just consider it affirmative action for underprivileged fractal programs. Maybe we can start an organization called the National Association for the Advancement of Underprivileged Fractal Programs (NAAUFP). Discrimination must be corrected. My apologies to the NAACP for a humorous take on their organization.
Criticizing judges and editors for their conflicts of interest clearly leaves one open to retaliation via those very same conflicts of interest that one is attempting to expose. Few are willing to suffer the consequences of challenging the same authorities who have both the power to correct themselves and the power to punish those who are challenging them -- no one except a whistleblower.
I'm going to call my congressman and see if I can get some federal protection for our whistleblowers. Perhaps we can get them into the witness protection program. Then, they can be protected from more retaliation by the monopoly and any "stooges" sent by the monopoly.
So, my only comment to the Kens and Tobys (and the next Stooge to be sent from our adversaries) who show up to defend the status quo of the fractal world is this: Leave it to the many silent readers of Orbit Trap to judge the merits of what we say and come to their own conclusions. If you really feel our whistleblowing is a false alarm, then present your objections in your very own venue in infinite length and in total freedom. Then the audience can freely choose if they care to listen to you.
Toby and I are only two. We need another and we can be the three stooges. Anyone want to be part of this exclusive club? BTW, Toby, do you have a copy of the "Stooge Rules of Conduct" given to us by the monopoly when they sent us on this mission? I've misplaced mine, and I think it might be needed to protect ourselves when the monopoly is taken down.

A note to anyone who is humor or sarcastically impaired...the above is meant entirely as humor with plenty of sarcasm tossed in. While there is much truth in what I wrote, it is meant as humor. The referenced post is probably the funniest thing I've read in months. The entire premise is so absurd, that (to quote myself) it is "overly stupid".

I'm exercising my freedom by this post. Hopefully, the monopoly won't seek retaliation on me.

To be serious for a moment...

I'd like to have lots of readers read this. But, I know many people have tuned out, and I understand that reaction. But, since I disagreed with some of the accusations made by the whistleblowers and the way they voiced their concerns, I decided to speak out. I'm also writing because I find it an amusing diversion from other issues. The whistleblowers can ridicule me if they choose. In the totality of life, all this is really insignificant.

Regardless, I know my position on these issues is more truthful and reasonable than that of the whistleblowers. Truth and reason are powerful things when you have them on your side. The number of "silent" readers who don't say anything publicly isn't relevant. Sure, it's nice to have support via private email, but those emails are meaningless in public discussions. Perhaps if enough of them speak up, they can work together to break the "monopoly".

I welcome opinions to what I write. Sure, it's nice to have people agree, but you learn more from those who have differing opinions. People are free to disagree with me all they wish in comments, or in other venues. Agreement isn't really the point. Clarity and understanding of different points of view is important. I don't have the power to retaliate against anyone that might disagree with me. After all, I'm just a "stooge" sent by the monopoly.

I fail to understand why the whistleblowers are so averse to receiving comments that differ. The hostility towards those who have spoken out in opposition to the whistleblowers is really quite puzzling. After all, aren't those choosing to speak out, even in opposition, just as "brave" as the whistleblowers. Let's be honest, us "stooges" are just as much a target of the whistleblowers as the whistleblowers claim they are of the mythical monopoly. Even more so, when you consider how the two of us "stooges" are now censored from commenting directly to the whistleblowers. Come to think of it, I guess I should start posting complaining about how I'm being treated by the whistleblowers; they called me a "stooge". They didn't say my comments were "stoogish", they called me a "stooge".

Anyone can publish a calendar. Anyone can organize and run a contest. To organize an exhibition to publicly display art is a more difficult task. But, I know of people who have had individual exhibitions. So, it is possible.

Is this whole whistleblowing exercise a false alarm? No, in the case of the BMFAC, not entirely. There are things that can be done to improve that event if it continues in the future. But, it is no where near the serious issue the "whistleblowers" make it out to be. Let's be honest here. The main complainants have personal issues with the main person coordinating the event. That's really the root of the issue, IMO. The other main root cause is that the "contest" doesn't conform exactly to some organization's strict list of rules. Perhaps this is a valid position to take, but I think most reasonable people see the absurdity in that viewpoint.

But, look at it another way. Lets say that I make an arrangement to have an exhibit at a local art gallery, or convention center for a public display of fractal art. Lets even say that there is a mathematical event going on at the same time at or near the same location as the exhibit. Lets say that I'm a sponsor of the exhibit and am contributing funds to cover the costs of the exhibition. Now, assume that I want to display a variety of images that show the diversity of fractal art possible. So, I contact some people I know whose art I like and ask them to contribute an image for the exhibit. But, I also want more images to include in the exhibit. I could just pick other images for inclusion, but I think it might be fun for people to be able to submit images that might be selected. So, I ask the group I contacted previously if they would be willing to select images for me. I don't really have the time. But, I will bear the cost of printing and framing the prints for the selected images. So, images are solicited and selected.

Is this scenario really so horrible? Is it detrimental to anyone who doesn't have an image selected? Is there some horrible breach of ethics or professionalism? Since I'm paying the expenses, isn't it my right to solicit images any way I choose? Am I controlling what any one else chooses to do in any way? Am I punishing anyone? Am I preventing any other exhibition in any way? Is is wrong to complain about what I did? No, but it is wrong to accuse me of "ethical breaches" and being "unprofessional".

In the case of the calendar, no, there is no issue here. Just a wrong-headed opinion that this commercial venture must conform to some group's strict rules of contest holding.

I'll note that the writer of this whistleblowing piece is one who likes to throw out general charges without ever offering any substantiation. No examples, no proof. Just unfounded charges. For example, in the first paragraph quoted above, "just about everything else has become monopolized". What else is monopolized? Of course, there is nothing else monopolized, because nothing is monopolized.

Lets be serious here, the impact of fractal, digital, or algorithmic art on the art world, or world in general, is insignificant. It will grow over time, just as any other art form. I think most people can see just how silly the contention that one calendar, and one contest, and one small group of judges for that one contest are all powerful, all controlling, all vindictive, and destroying the ability for others to prosper in their own rights and own venues really is. Isn't that premise "overly stupid"?

I'd also like to know specific examples of the intimidation referenced in "the intimidating influence felt by anyone else who wants to gain recognition in an art form which the clique claims to represent and whose most publicly visible examples they administer as their private fiefdom". If they have really occurred, they should be able to be listed.

Is the writer referring to his partner in whistleblowing being expelled from a particular web host by a particular person? If so, I can understand being angry at that event, but is that the motivation for all this ranting? Who else is, or has been, intimidated? In most cases, these would be considered serious charges, and would require proof. However, in this case, the writer is just venting anger, IMO, so I don't take him seriously.

However, I believe the writer is serious, which just makes the entire episode all the more pathetic.

There have been some heated emotions and exchanges and a few remarks short on civility on these topics over the last several months from differing points of view. If you aren't enjoying what you are creating, then why do it? If your goal is gaining recognition for your art, then perhaps you need to reevaluate your motives. I'm not the greatest artist by any stretch of my imagination, but I enjoy creating those things I create. It doesn't matter in the least what anyone else thinks of what I create. Nor, does it matter what I think of anyone else's art. Create for the joy of creating. If you end up being recognized, then that is just a bonus. It's a great thrill to have image(s) selected for the Fractal Universe calendar. I know, I've had that privilege. But, it's not the end of the world when you don't have images selected. I've been there too. I take the position that exposure to the public for fractal, algorithmic, or digital art (whatever you want to call it) is a good thing, even if the mechanisms for getting the public exposure have flaws.

I said it in a previous post, but it bears repeating. If you don't like what you see, then take action and create new outlets and venues for your art and the art of others that you like. Quit whining about others and mythical conspiracies and do something. Set the example and create and publish calendars or books according to the standards and practices you think are the most "ethical" or "professional". Create "professionally" run contests, or support and promote contests that live up to your standards. Rather than be destructive, be constructive and do something you see as positive. You will benefit and so will everyone else. Contrary to the charge by the whistleblower, I'm not trying to keep the status quo, I'm encouraging people to take action to change the status quo in a positive, not destructive way.


kymarto said...

Sorry Ken, those stooge rules of conduct keep changing. I can't keep up with them.

Hey! If I'm a stooge can I be Moe? Curly and Larry always get such a beating...

I actually think that there is an insidious plot by Apophysis to dethrone UF as the de facto king of fractal generating programs. Those flames are just showing up everywhere, OT authors' moaning about the homogenization of fractal art by UF notwithstanding. I wonder, will we will soon start seeing rants on Orbit Trap against Apo and its mindless users? Anything, as long as it's against the status quo (at least if that status quo doesn't include the authors of Orbit Trap in their rightfully prominent positions).

The latest post on OT about "whistleblowers" would be sad if it were not so funny. It's amazing the powers of justification that the human mind can marshall in its quest to make benighted actions and intentions appear noble and sublime. Everybody does it all the time, of course, in all kinds of ways ("This candy bar is all natural and contains vitamin C! Eating two will certainly make me healthier than eating one!"), but the OT bloggers should realize that they are not fooling anybody but themselves with such lame rationalizations for their actions.

There is a concept in psychology called "cognitive dissonance" which explains this quite well. Put (too) simply, if reality conflicts with one's image of oneself as a person of good intention and action, tension results. The person in whom this tension builds finds it unbearably uncomfortable and strives for a resolution. There are basically two ways to do this: one is to assimilate the information presented, which by force changes the person's image of him/herself. This is almost always traumatic, as it involves tearing down and rebuilding long-standing psychic structures. The threat to the ego can seem like complete loss of competence and control or even incipient death, and this is often so terrifying to the ego that the person chooses the second option: to deny reality, seizing on any evidence, no matter how flimsy, to buttress this denial.

One excellent way to justify this type of repression of awareness is to seek the approval of like-minded others, as this presents a strong argument in favor of "objective", outside confirmation of our position. But of course it is less convenient when our outside sources point us back towards the reality that we are striving to deny, and some way must be found to silence them. They must be discredited at all costs.

We still need another stooge.

But I'm "Moe"...


WelshWench said...

I've certainly had a comment deleted over at OT (I couldn't be bothered to try and find out if I've been banned) does that make me a trainee stooge? ;)

As long ago as November I suggested to the OT authors "If you don't like the way these contests are run, then get way from the blog and off your backside; put your time and money where your mouth is and find a sponsor and/or pay for event hire; organise and recompense judges; organise and pay for publicity; organise entries and institute your rules for your contest."

Silence was the only response.
Those that can, do. Those that can't, whinge.

Ken said...

Toby -

We may have to thumb wrestle or have a rock/paper/scissors competition to determine who gets to be Moe. I don't think I can let you have the choice that easily.

Perhaps I should take on the Apophysis crusade before they get to it. Ooops, I forgot. Us stooges have to get approval from the monopoly first. We're not allowed to act on our own volition. Do you remember how to contact them?

Gill -

A stoogette? I don't know if that fits the image quite right. In any case, you'll have to get the monopoly to inform Toby and I if you are qualified to be a stooge.


It will be interesting to see what topics show up next now that OT is not going to bother themselves with anything other than comments of approval from the "silent" masses.

UltraGnosis said...

Well, I entered the BMFAC 2007 with a clutch of Apophysis flames determined to back up those fine gentlemen at OT(T) with across-the-board rejection (thereby proving the UF Dominance Theory), and do you know what happened? One of said flames received an 'honourable mention'! This wasn't scripted. And so, the insidious tentacles of The Monopoly Board caressed my fragile ego and found a willing convert. So it's official: Apophysis is 'in'. Whatever next? FE? ChaosPro? The OT rant must then necessarily morph to a stance of "an unmitigated bias towards 'fractals' generated by widely available mathematical formulae above the carefully hand-crafted pixels of the true artist".

See, it's all in the suffering :D