Friday, January 20, 2012

Introducing… "The Infinite Art Tournament!"

In a recent comment, regular IAT(fL&TM5K) reader dhkendell remarked:
I must have missed the post where he [meaning me, Michael5000] said that 1000 artists will be considered. In fact, I think I missed where he explains this whole thing altogether!
Well, truth be told, dhkendell didn’t “miss” it so much as I “didn’t post” it. For if there is one thing I’ve learned after five years of blogging – although only after five years of blogging – is that it’s not good to make a big fuss about a massive, years-long new enterprise until you are quite certain that (1) you yourself are actually interested in it and that (2) at least three or four other people can be persuaded to play along. Those criteria having been met to my satisfaction, I hereby announce that

I’m going to run a big goofy art appreciation exercise in the guise of a tournament! It’s going to be called “The Infinite Art Tournament!” In fact, it has already started!

Here’s how it will work!

1. I have a list of artists deemed by some, or by somebody, to be more or less “great.” I would rather not divulge where I got this list, but I freely admit that it is (a) conservative, (b) subjective (of course), and (c) slightly dated.

2. Every weekend, I post two paintings apiece by two artists off this list, proceeding in dogged alphabetical order.

3. You vote.  Along with your fellow IAT(fL&TM5K) readers, you look at the paintings (and, if it floats your boat, do further research or activate your prior knowledge) and vote on which artist you prefer.

4. Winning artists move on into the second round, etc. In eight or nine years, in theory, those of us still alive will witness the crowning of the greatest artist of all time!

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Why?
A: Because it amuses me. Because I hope that it might amuse others. Because art, and knowledge and appreciation of art, leads to a modestly enhanced experience of life. Because it’s refreshing to approach Art History, with its reasonable but sometimes tedious preoccupation with schools, regions, and centuries, from the randomizing flight path of alphabetical order.

Q: How do you pick the paintings?
A: Well, there is a system that makes the first image, shall we say, “automatic.” I don’t choose it myself. I do select the second image myself, and try to represent the artist’s overall shtick (as the Art Historians say) as best I can from a brief reconnaissance. If there’s a third image, it’s semi-automatic; I choose it myself from a very limited list. We’ll worry about fourth images when we get there.  Update: fourth images are "automatic."

Q: What if there’s a tie?
A: I have a plan, but haven’t had to put it in action yet. This project is what you might call “emergent,” which is a very professional way of saying “we’re making it up as we go.”

Q: Doesn’t being the artist that comes first on the page give that artist an unfair advantage/disadvantage?
A: Perhaps.

Q: Do YOU vote, Michael5000?
A: Oh, hells yeah! I usually wait a week, though, in order to be an less obtrusive MC. You may have noticed that I’m also keeping separate track as if I was the only one voting, but that’s very incidental to the real tournament.  Update: I stopped keeping separate track of my own votes, as it felt out of the spirit of the thing.

Q: What if a whole bunch of new people started showing up just to vote in the tournament?
A: That would be cool.

Q: What if nobody voted?
A: Than I’d probably stop.

Q: When’s the deadline for voting?
A: Any given pair if artists will be up for at least one month. After a month – generally well, well after a month – I will come by and tally up votes in order to get the post for the next round ready. When I do that? That’s the deadline.

Q: This is silly! / pointless! / shallow! / methodologically flawed!
A: No shit, Sherlock.

Q: Do you really intend to see this thing through?
A: As long as it’s fun to me and to a modest quorum, and I’m able to do it, I imagine I’ll keep pushing it along.  I'm like that.

Q: I sure hope H.R. Giger makes his way into this tournament. Actually, that makes me wonder whether ANY of my favorite artists, (who tend to be commercial/fantasy artists yet are more appealing that the majority of what we've seen on here so far) will make it into the tournament. Artists like Luis Royo, Brom, Dorian Cleavenger, Michael Whelan, Sorayama, Brian Froud, Boris Vallejo, Frank Frazetta, or even pin-up artists like Olivia and those that are harder to classify, like Mark Ryden. Is it truly the infinite art contest? Royo is one of my absolute favorites - I'd put him up against a scribbler any day of the week.

A: I can tell you that not a single one of the artists you mention are among the 1000 in the big, big bracket. (Indeed, it is not an infinite art tournament, only an (anticipated) eight-year art tournament. I exaggerate for effect and for the life-metaphor.) Regrets, in a way, although your complaint is probably more with the dynamics of culture than with what I'm up to in this particular long-term stunt. I hope you'll stay in the voting pool; I'm always interested in what you have to say.

…oh, wait, 

that last one wasn’t a “Frequently Asked” Question so much as a question that reader Voron X posed in December, and the answer I gave him. He makes a really good point. I have pondered, and continue to ponder, the idea of the Infinite Art Tournament hosting an Alternative Infinite Art Tournament. The only problem is… how would I assemble, or where would I find, the list?  I'm open to suggestions!


Additional Clarifications and Conversation

Anonymous said...

First, this is like comparing apples and oranges. Second, one must possess imagination to appreciate [Artist X]. His work in person is stunning. He is known for his sensuous brush strokes...which is underserved by a computer monitor. My vote is resounding for [Artist X], although I'm not at all surprised that most chose [Artist Y]. How did these two even come to be compared?? Were you flipping through an art collection book arranged in alphabetical order?

Michael5000 said...

Hi, Anonymous!

First, yes, it is much like comparing apples and oranges. They are different things, but in that they are both similarly sized tree fruits, they are much, much more similar to each other than they are to almost all other things. On this basis, it is very reasonable to compare them, as in fact people do all the time. I used to prefer oranges, myself, but apples have been growing on me lately.

Second, as you well know, one must possess imagination to appreciate any work of art; your boy has no monopoly on this.

Obviously, a computer monitor is a limitation for this kind of exercise -- especially for the sculpters -- but we ARE on the internets, so we sort of have to live with the medium.

These two came to be compared because they are bracketed against each other in the tournament which, yes, is seeded by alphabetical order.

Now, polls are long closed on this one and [Artist Y] is already out there duking it out with [Artist Z] in Round 2. You can support [Artist X] in the loser's bracket in a couple of months, if you want, but you'll have to give yourself a handle for the purpose; I'm not going to count purely anonymous votes in the tally.


Jenners said...

OK … so it wasn't just me that kind of missed the idea of this. I've just been voting along. It would be lovely if you could figure out a widget or something so that we could just vote with a check box or someting .Might be easier for you too. There are poll sites that you can use. (ahem Poll Daddy). I'm sure someone as smart as yourself can figure it out!

Michael5000 said...

It would be lovely if you could figure out a widget or something so that we could just vote with a check box or someting. Might be easier for you too.

Well, you don't really start something like this if you are trying to make things easier on yourself. And I've got no percentage in making things easier for YOU, because having to vote in the comments encourages the witty/smart/snarky/digruntled/etc comments that are a big part of the fun. Also, the barrier of having to click, type a name, and click again keeps out the riffraff. Thank you for your vote of confidence in my computer application skills, though!

dhkendall said...

For if there is one thing I’ve learned after five years of blogging – although only after five years of blogging

Well, you haven't learned to spell the names of "regular ... reader"s absolutely correct yet. ;)

Alternative Infinite Art Tournament

Considering we're here for 8 or 9 years already for a select list (BTW, I liked the state flag tournament, obviously, was kind of hoping for a national flag one, but some might change in the time, making it hard ... ) I think here for longer for a longer list wouldn't be a good idea. (Heck, my money's on blogs not even being around in 8 or 9 years - no offence.)

dhkendall said...

Should really have included this in the last one, but I'm quite flattered that I was mentioned (I'm assuming it was me ;) ) and that my personal Frequently Asked Question was answered, and that it helped out someone already! What an honour from my favourite blog that has 3 zeros in the title!

Michael5000 said...

Are blogs around now? Sorry about the name-manglin'. Spelling isn't my strong suit.

Chuckdaddy said...

The alphabetical order determining match ups is one of my favorite parts of this most awesome tournament. But you might want to consider moving it to the Twitter platform. Much bigger with the kids today

Michael5000 said...

Twitter blows.

Voron X said...

I like the idea of an alternative art contest. It would probably not be hard to find artists, but to figure out how to limit the list to the very best. Also, it might (or might not) be necessary to put limits on the types of media allowed. (I'm assuming painting/sculpture/maybe photo-manip)

You still haven't answered my question about the number of artists and whether or not you're going to (assuming your list has 1000 artists) add 24 so that you have a full bracket of 1024. If so, you'd better start soon to prevent alphabetical mess-up mayhem. In any case, I think it's not particularly fair if the 24 artists at the end of the alphabet get byes from the first round simply because they come last. Or have you saved the first-round byes for artists like Leonardo & Michelangelo? (also not fair IMHO). Just trying to get a mathematical handle on this...

Michael5000 said...

Mr. X: Your answer is coming soon!