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Re: AGA and things considering...

On Sun, 17 Feb 2002, Diana Berberich wrote:

> Hi Folks:
>     Is there going to be an AGA event this year for
> our aquascapes?

I think the response was positive enough that I will at least volunteer to
make it happen again.  I've had a few people randomly e-mail me asking how
come they can't enter right now.  'course we'll need a better PR team to
start advertising it in another month or so if we want bigger coverage.  
I'm pretty awful at PR myself, as evidenced by last year (though we also 
had a very very late start).

> I also wondered how judges might be selected for the event.

Well, up to now we've selected judges in two ways.  Our first plan was to
have a nice balance of judges, at least one European, preferably versed in
Dutch or German styles, and one from Asia, and one from the US; the fourth
would be a wild-card.  Of course, it ends up boiling down to who you know:
in 2000, our single asian connection didn't return our e-mail, so we ended
up with two Europeans and two Americans, both with close AGA ties.  In
2001 we had a similar experience, though we got to work with three 
brand new judges without AGA ties.

Suggestions would be gladly taken for 2002.  And yes, a certain notorious
Japanese fellow did actually offer (at a certain convention back in
November) to judge the AGA's event in 2002.  NO PROMISES at this point,
but I think there's a good chance of follow-through this time.  (By the
way: Enter the ADA contest.  It rocks.  There's a link to the entry form
on the AGA site (under "news").  I saw the top 30 at the convention, and
they were really good.  It's totally different from the AGA one.  There's
no way we could ever get that kind of award money -- that's more than our
yearly operating budget, and no way we could ever do that quality of
printing for the winners.  On the other hand, I don't think the ADA
contest is interested in presenting the planting plans, multiple angles,
and detailed text for every entry the way we have it on our website, and
they're going to be far less tolerant of amateur photos.  So enter the AGA
contest too. :).

> I can see a distinct emphasis arising with regard to the
> Technical/biological/botanical side as oposed to the artistry and
> composition of aquascapes.  The contests have only been around for 2
> years??  So there is no use being critical of its infancy.

Talking infancy, it really should also be noted that there has only been
one ADA contest as well.  They're also learning what works and what
doesn't.  They've learned that it costs money to print up that nice book
of the winners.  And that merely having a $10,000 first prize isn't enough
to get more than five Americans to enter.  (I still don't understand that

>      I can't yet make out a distinct style we can call our own.  But I
> hope our winners will not be selected for merely immitating known
> styles.

If you look at the judging scorecard we invented, you'll see we attempted
to balance aesthetics with some (15% worth, I beleive) practicality.  
James can probably remember better (I snoozed off during a lot of the
debate back in '99), but we drew them up based *partly* on Dutch judging
criteria (because it's at least a starting point), but also attempting to
cover a wider base of entries.  Perhaps the scorecard will evolve more 
details as time passes.

One other thing I'd note, before getting too carried away with the
judging, was that the AGA event was primarily intended as a SHOWCASE of
aquascapes.  We essentially gave folks a template (2-5 photos, planting
plan, suggested text info) for writing a couple pages in an online book of
aquascapes, something people could go and look at for ideas, inspiration,
DETAILS, whatever.  Some would be spectacular and high maintanence, some
would be more representative of a "working aquarist".  The awards are
cool, and certainly a motivating factor for the entrants... but I found
myself more interested (at least in the first year) in many of the entries
that didn't even place.  I guess that's true with the ADA contest too.  
The ADA winner didn't really pop out at me, but I sure was intrigued by
#18 (or some number like that).

> Maybe some more types of distincitions should be made with regard to
> what category one wishes to compete in.  Someone mentioned shallow
> depth tanks vs deep depth tanks.  They do pose distinct problems in a
> successful landscape.  Perhaps more challenging might be entering
> based on using a distinct number of any chosen plant species. I would
> find it hard to judge a tank of flowing hair grasses against one that
> is a jungle with 10 or 15 species, even if the tank sizes were very
> similar.  That is where it is when it gets hard for me to understand
> what was in the mind of the judges. One could enter a mid size tank/5
> species aquascape and at least not have it judged against a mid size
> tank/9 species aquascapes.  This would then make clear distinctions
> that most viewers could perhaps see more clearly for themselves and
> challenge contenders in very specific ways.  This would then hopefully
> remove us from having to emulate known winning styles and open up the
> arena to unknown territories.

Very interesting ideas, and possibilities if the contest takes off in the 
next few years.  We'd really need far more participation to be able to 
subdivide this way.  Stay tuned, I guess?

  - Erik

Erik Olson
erik at thekrib dot com