A question to the Kingdom A&S Minister, Master Philip White:
“Is it fair to judge one art form against a completely different art form?”
A reply from the Minister:
“Likely. Did you check the rules?”
That’s probably where we need to start. If we’re talking about judging then we’re talking about a competition. And if we are talking about a competition then we are talking about rules.
We’re judging apples and oranges and armor and knitting against all sorts of other things. It may not feel like it is fair.
But are these different art forms being judged accounting to the rules or standards set by the competition?
If so then it’s fair.
Now that’s a simple answer. What is also being asked is more complex.
Does one kind of art form have an advantage over another kind of art form? Or, maybe said another way, will one entry be treated better than another entry?
First, let’s talk some about how art forms differ.
Some art forms are well researched.
You could say this is an easier entry because there is a lot of information out there. Or you could say this is a harder entry because there is so much information to have to follow.
Some art forms have local experts from which to learn.
You could say this is an easier art form because you have more people to teach you. Or you could say this is harder because you may not have the same experience by figuring it out on your own.
And there are more differences. Some art forms cost more than others. Some art forms have more readily available materials. Some art forms take months or years to learn a skill. Some art forms require learning lots of different skills. Some art forms take lots of space.
Any of these things could be a pro or a con. Some of these things will be good for artists. Some will be challenges.
No art form is equal. And no artist will have the same experience learning and executing an art form.
We need to keep all of that in mind when we are talking about “what is fair”.
Next, let’s look a bit at how judging works.
Your judge will be influenced by a number of things. They will have their own personal feelings, opinions, and tastes. Even the most mindful judge, trying their best to be consciously aware of their biases, will not be able to avoid some level of subjectivity. We’re all human after all.
We need to keep all of that in mind, too, when we are talking about “what is fair”.
So how do we try to help artisans and judges create more “fair” competitions?
We publish rules to set expectations for artisans. And we publish a rubric to help judges give more balanced and equalized feedback.
Nothing is perfect of course. Like I said. We’re all human.
There have been experiences that do not feel good. Maybe of us have had bad judging experiences. Or we have heard the stories. We may have our battle scars.
I’m not going to pretend that unfair judging experiences have not happened. They have. They should not have happened. I understand anyone being critical of competitions and judging. I sympathize with anyone who has felt unjustly criticized.
Our goal is to minimize those poor experiences, or better yet, avoid them all together.
Here’s what I’ll say in closing.
When it comes down to it, entering competitions is not for everyone.
If you find yourself questioning if it is “fair” or “right” for your work to be judged against someone else’s different art form then that competition may not be right for you. Look for a different competition that you feel better about. Or try another kind of arts activity altogether. That’s okay!
Remember… Have fun! Learn! Teach!
Your Servant to Command,