While constantly prepared to mouth off about the aesthetics and/or ethics of any given situation or exhibition, Culture Vulture had, until Friday last anyway, never been asked to participate in any formalized, group judgment of art objects. We suppose it is fitting that our first participation in such activity was centered on selecting the most aesthetically pleasing photograph of illegally dumped trash from a group of about 40 entries in the Littered Landscape Photography Contest sponsored by Associated Students Recycling Program at Chico State University.
It was more fun than anticipated. The judging took place at the Sierra Nevada Taproom & Restaurant, and by the time we arrived a table in the jury area was already spread with a selection of delicious snacks and our kindly and attentive waitress was collecting beverage orders.
To provide a glimpse into the Culture Vulture thought processes, we transcribe below our “Judges [sic] Notes/Comments.”
Regarding the aforementioned snapshot of an abandoned hide-a-bed sofa: “Poignant exposition of the plight of the homeless making use of the castoff goods of the homed.”
Regarding a very artfully composed photograph of a discarded article of denim clothing: “This is a very nice photo but a bit too comfy given the theme of the event. Those old jeans won’t really do much damage.”
Regarding a photo of a Native American man (whom I have had the pleasure of chatting with on more than one occasion) sleeping on a discarded mattress in an area scattered with assorted trash: “Nice emphatic statement about how homeless people are regarded as trash and inhabit areas dominated by trash.”
Regarding a mountain landscape with an all-shot-to-hell metal trash can overflowing with spent shotgun shells: “Great shot. Nicely captures the pristine landscape, the enthusiasm and carelessness of the shooters, and has a great sense of irony in the devastation of the waste receptacle.”
A couple of my choices made it past the first round of jury discussion. We debated the issue of aesthetic content versus social commentary, and it was decided that aesthetic content would be the dominant criterion for rating the photos as to first, second, third or honorable mention. Cuture Vulture suggested in as diplomatic a fashion as possible that, given what we understood the stated aim of the contest to be, perhaps the social-commentary aspect of the photos should rank higher in determining the rankings of the photos. But, as we said, aesthetics won out. That’s democracy.
The selected photos will be on display in the Bell Memorial Union Art Gallery on the Chico State campus through Nov. 5. Check them out and judge for yourself.
1. Don’t forget to vote.
2. Don’t forget to invite some fun-loving, law-abiding friends to go to downtown Chico on Halloween night. We’re going to have hundreds of excess officers on the scene and it’s a perfect opportunity to demonstrate to the cops that their time—and our tax dollars—are being wasted on this absurd show of force. Just be nice.