Outcome of the AGA Aquascaping Competition - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 21 (permalink) Old 11-09-2005, 10:08 PM Thread Starter
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Outcome of the AGA Aquascaping Competition

As expected, the competition reaches a higher level every year-- tanks that would have swept competion two years ago don't stand a chance now.

Overall-- what's most impressive is the rising level of excecution ability.

By that I mean the rising quality of design-materials, (big thanks to ADA concepts on that one), neatness, and photograph quality.

Basically the level of professionalism is rising.

Tanks like those from Forum members like Norbert and PJAN can be noted as good examples of this-- but also a lot of examples from Asia.

Most notable I think was the level of excellence demonstrated by the competitors from Hong Kong and Taiwan-- consistantly good, and quite excellent in several occasions.


To be honest though, I was disappointed in the level of artistic experimentation, and the level of appreciation for what experimentation there was.

Oliver Knott, of course, is the most notable person in his willingness to make leaps-- and to make leaps that have good thought behind them. My personal opinion is that there should be more following of this example if we want our art form to grow.

There also seemed to be a general closed-mindedness on innovation where the judging was concerned.

-The most notable example is in the Biotope Category where the judges made the clear statement that staying basic-aquascaping princaples was more important than anal-accuracy. The whole concept of the biotope idea is to find aesthetic virtue in being true to nature-- the theory being that nature holds intrinsic beauty. As artists, if we are to theorize that this is true, we should try to see what happens when we go full-tilt on it.

Basically, if we don't go all out on our ideas we might as well not have them. If we stop following our ideas, our art will never grow.

-The other noted example that really disappointed me was the reaction to Roland Seah (of singapore's) work. Seah is quite the unique aquascaper in his dogged persistence in excecuting his style regaurdless of what anyone else says-- I really admire him for that. Come hell or high water, he's going to stick with the ferns, anubias, moss, crypts, and hair grass. Coming from the Wet and GREEN Singapore, I can see why he would have a higher affinity for these types of plants and shapes, as I also have an affinity for them coming from a home town where there's rain forest in my backyard.

The judges just were stubbornly unwilling to see the value in this innovation and loyalty to a certain concept. And that is disappointing to me. BTW-- that paludarium Seah did was AMAZING.

Who cares if there's glare on the glass, or stains, or whatever! I'd like to see the judges try and keep a 3000 gallon paludarium with spotless glass walls! Or find a way to photograph the top and bottom together effectively! Major props to Seah on that one.

Over the contest, it was made clear-- "You can't win this contest with green stuff alone." Which is sad because as artists we should test the limits.

-Over the course of the contest there are several tanks with small innovations that should have been praised, but were ultimately put down. Some examples would be the tanks of:

Mariusz Mistak, Mitchell Lee, Rui Manuel (I believe letting stems grow to the top should be acceptable when it's part of the tank's concept), and of course others.


Every time I read the phrases, "like", "my taste", "hate", "dislike", "too much" I wanted to toss my cookies. Unfortunately, I ended up losing a lot of cookies.



The last thing that disturbed me-- no fault of the contest itself mind you-- was the general absence of the competition from the ADA contest. We've all seen the amazing photos of the top ten from that contest.

AGA is supposed to be an international contest but . . .

Of course I like Oliver Knott's altum tank, but keep in mind that it's a tank that took first in AGA but 10th in ADA. What's the deal here? Where are all the guys who competed in the ADA? Did they feel it wasn't worth it to enter the AGA contest?



Well, those were my thoughts and impressions from the contest! I want to open the floor for discussion here! Congrats to all those who participated in the contest!
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post #2 of 21 (permalink) Old 11-10-2005, 12:28 AM
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To be honest though, I was disappointed in the level of artistic experimentation, and the level of appreciation for what experimentation there was.
I agree. There were some that were puching the limits, but I thought that the judges didn't really give them much chance. The judges dissapointed me a bit this year. It seemed that there was a specific style they were after.

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The judges just were stubbornly unwilling to see the value in this innovation and loyalty to a certain concept. And that is disappointing to me. BTW-- that paludarium Seah did was AMAZING.
Completely agree.


I personally liked Rony Suzuki's 26 Gallon (Entry #36 Medium Category) more best overall, but it only got honorable mention.

It seemed to me like most of the tanks that did well (and even some that didn't) were ones the owner obviously put a lot of money into. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but sometime I'd like to see a contest (or at least a catagory) with more restrictions on this. Maybe more controls like same type of tank and equipment.


Well, congradulations to all that entered.
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post #3 of 21 (permalink) Old 11-10-2005, 01:25 AM
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I'm always intrigued by judge's work product. When Amano judged AGA's 2004 entries, many people thought "a little harsh, but he's the man." I would agree.

I've seen a lot of Carlos's tanks in the past, and many of them are quite good. Same for Jeff Senske's. Both put forth exquisite work. I had never really seen examples of Karen Randall's work before, so I did a little searching & here's all I found:





I'm sure she has other tanks out there--does anyone have some links? I'm curious where she's coming from aesthetically. I get the impression she's not a big fan of iwagumi style based on her comments, but that's all I know of her.

To answer your question about AGA vs. ADA--my thought is that the bulk of the competitive scapers happen to be in the Pacific Rim right now. In the 70s & 80s, that distinction would've gone to Europe (true "aquatic gardener" Dutch style). They are all accustomed to ADA products, periodicals, etc. Hell, they even have aquarium conventions in Europe & the Pacific Rim, but not here. The result, I think, is that ADA is viewed as the competition to enter. The Holy Grail if you will. Many ADA entrants may not even know about the AGA, but I'm sure all AGA entrants are aware of the ADA.

John P.
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post #4 of 21 (permalink) Old 11-10-2005, 01:40 AM
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Did anyone check out the firts place winner for the xtra-large tanks. WOW!!!!!!

The 1400 gallon planted tank. WOW!!!! the way it's built into the wall with the rockwork for the roof. WOW!!!!

75 gallon, fillstar xp2 with inline reactor, 12 Lb pressurised co2, 4.2 WPG-corallife 3x96 watt PC-, fluorite/silica-sand substright.
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post #5 of 21 (permalink) Old 11-10-2005, 02:26 AM
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Hey folks, I wanted to let y'all know that the AGA has both opened up our aquascaping contest results and at the same time launched our own discussion forum.

http://forum.aquatic-gardeners.org/

A link to the aquascaping showcase can be found in the toolbar at the top of the forum. Please stop by, I'm looking forward to seeing y'all over there!

FYI, it may be a little slow right now, our server is getting hit pretty heavily from folks looking at the contest results.

Regards,
Phil
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post #6 of 21 (permalink) Old 11-10-2005, 03:32 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John P.
I'm always intrigued by judge's work product. When Amano judged AGA's 2004 entries, many people thought "a little harsh, but he's the man."
Its funny you say that John........I have thought about posting just that many times. I always dismissed it as "lost in translation". Either way it is negative.....the man or not, its not what we would expect. I cant see other greats saying that kind of stuff. Truly great people tend to take a very humble approach to comments. Im sure we wouldnt hear Gretzky with such a negative overtone.

jB
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post #7 of 21 (permalink) Old 11-10-2005, 04:52 AM Thread Starter
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Fosty-- As a kid with a very tight budget, who's currently continuing the hobby with a 2g desk tank under a desk lamp, I sympathize with the miss-fortune of winning-by-wealth.

Like in everything else though, the most established artists have the best tools. The rookie-artists trying to break in and make a name for themselves have to experiment, do the best they can, and hope to demonstrate that despite a lack of liberties, that they have a talent for design.

Which is why I'm pretty happy with my own results with the competition.

Even if I don't stand a chance against the guys that have the cash, I'm happy that they do exist. The fact that people are putting so much resources into it means that they're serious-- and seriousness is exactly what we need.

They can shoot ahead as much as they want-- I'll catch up eventually.


John-- it's good to know about the whole ADA/AGA situation. Thanks a lot. The competition of the ADA contest is really something. I'll be staying in Japan as a visiting student in the summer-- I can't wait.

Those tank pics of Karen Randalls are rather weak. I looked too and couldn't find anything better from her. Hopefully she's actually done better work than that.

To be honest I can't tell if she's a good judge or not. She's nit-picky, which is good to get people serious about professionalism. She's biased sometimes which is really bad. Yet sometimes she has good intuition so it's a surprise. All in all, she's . . . ok.


Shuks-- yeah, that's the Knott's tank I mentioned. Keep in mind though that it only earned 10th place at ADA. No offense to Knott, who I have serious respect for especially in the department of innovation, but the tanks that were ranked above him were really incredible. Especially the 1st place tank-- ingenius.


Phil, thanks for the info. Maybe we should join the discussion there-- seems non-AGA contributing members can join the forum too?



On the issue of Amano's commentary last year-- To be honest, I was quite surprised at his commentary style. It's a completely different voice from the one in the english versions of his books. I expected to hear the wise almost philosophical man you read there.

There could be something to the idea of bad translation, but to be honest I bet that he was just being blunt.


Now, I know something of Japanese culture, and for him to be that bold means something. Generally in Japanese language you NEVER say things so blunt-- to criticise directly is almost impossible in the language! If you think his comments are harsh by English standards, they're mind-blowing by Japanese ones.

That tells me something-- that a man like Amano would go out of his way (and out of the norm of his language) to speak like that.

I think it shows how much care and dedication he has for the art-- and how much he wants people to be serious.

This isn't a hobby, it's not about fish tanks.

We're trying to create a serious art form-- and if that takes the master whipping out ruler and smacking us all over the head-- more power to him.

I plan on being serious.
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post #8 of 21 (permalink) Old 11-10-2005, 08:05 AM
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My fav was the Petree one lol that was awsome that someone did that..very creative!
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post #9 of 21 (permalink) Old 11-10-2005, 09:25 AM
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Does anyone know if you can see the ADA contest entries anywhere?
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post #10 of 21 (permalink) Old 11-10-2005, 12:04 PM
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Phil, thanks for the info. Maybe we should join the discussion there-- seems non-AGA contributing members can join the forum too?
Yes, the forums are open to anyone. Of course, our hope is that more people will actually join the AGA too.
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post #11 of 21 (permalink) Old 11-10-2005, 12:14 PM
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Originally Posted by John P.
I'm always intrigued by judge's work product. When Amano judged AGA's 2004 entries, many people thought "a little harsh, but he's the man." I would agree.

I've seen a lot of Carlos's tanks in the past, and many of them are quite good. Same for Jeff Senske's. Both put forth exquisite work. I had never really seen examples of Karen Randall's work before, so I did a little searching & here's all I found:





I'm sure she has other tanks out there--does anyone have some links? I'm curious where she's coming from aesthetically. I get the impression she's not a big fan of iwagumi style based on her comments, but that's all I know of her.

To answer your question about AGA vs. ADA--my thought is that the bulk of the competitive scapers happen to be in the Pacific Rim right now. In the 70s & 80s, that distinction would've gone to Europe (true "aquatic gardener" Dutch style). They are all accustomed to ADA products, periodicals, etc. Hell, they even have aquarium conventions in Europe & the Pacific Rim, but not here. The result, I think, is that ADA is viewed as the competition to enter. The Holy Grail if you will. Many ADA entrants may not even know about the AGA, but I'm sure all AGA entrants are aware of the ADA.

I've only seen tanks like these from her too...so much for judging backgrounds, artistic talent, creativity, photography skills and aquascaping.

Re-boot!
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post #12 of 21 (permalink) Old 11-10-2005, 04:57 PM
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-The other noted example that really disappointed me was the reaction to Roland Seah (of singapore's) work. Seah is quite the unique aquascaper in his dogged persistence in excecuting his style regaurdless of what anyone else says-- I really admire him for that. Come hell or high water, he's going to stick with the ferns, anubias, moss, crypts, and hair grass. Coming from the Wet and GREEN Singapore, I can see why he would have a higher affinity for these types of plants and shapes, as I also have an affinity for them coming from a home town where there's rain forest in my backyard.
Just one moment here. I speak with Roland Seah almost daily over MSN. I am quite familiar with his works and his style. Most aquascapes entered are in commercial, hospital, or home settings. He chooses to stick with ferns, mosses, crypts, and hairgrass to cut down on maintenance and make things easier to keep in the long run. It is not so much that he does not like stem plants, so much that it would be difficult to keep a stem plant tank looking good when you see it only once every 1-2 weeks. Cardinal Tetras are the fish of choice for color and fair price.

Aquascapers should execute their style regardless of what any judge says, this is true, but a winner must be picked in a contest.

BTW, aquascapes that lacked red plants did not get points deducted for that reason. Not from me or any other judge I can tell. I focused on the frame of the layout mostly -- the basic shape, visual lines, and the hardscaping. If these were not well executed, the aquascape probably wasn't a contender for winning.

Carlos
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post #13 of 21 (permalink) Old 11-10-2005, 06:03 PM
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I have always enjoyed looking at the very beautiful tanks in all catagories. The aquascapers have taken much time and effort to the best of their abilities to achieve what they feel is their best of the best. All should be winners!!!


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Last edited by Momotaro; 11-10-2005 at 10:17 PM. Reason: No way. No way. No way. Don't tell me you are suprised!
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post #14 of 21 (permalink) Old 11-10-2005, 06:24 PM
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To me, all look great. I`m starting to learn what the difference is between a good aquascape and a poor one. I`m training my eyes to pick things out. All the other years I`ve been really impressed with the photos, read the judges comments, then went back to the photos. It helped me notice things I didn`t notice before. It helped me learn what to do and what not to do. This year, unfortunately, I wasn`t able to. Karen Randall rings in all the time. Carlos a little less. But that`s it. Not much for kudos or constructive critisism. Without the judge`s comments to help learn and progress, it`s nothing more than a photo gallery.
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post #15 of 21 (permalink) Old 11-10-2005, 08:16 PM Thread Starter
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BTW, aquascapes that lacked red plants did not get points deducted for that reason. Not from me or any other judge I can tell. I focused on the frame of the layout mostly -- the basic shape, visual lines, and the hardscaping. If these were not well executed, the aquascape probably wasn't a contender for winning.
That's fine-- and if that's the way it was, that's good. I was only speaking from the impressions I got from the results and commentary.

Even if the reasons weren't specifically because a lack of red points, wasn't that often attached to the idea of "lacking focal points" or "a diversity of leaf shape/type/color/etc." ? I believe I read that type of comment frequently. Personally, I don't see why people shouldn't experiment with minimizing as well as maximizing different elements.


Brad, I personally don't think it's wise to focus your "eye" around the comments of the judges. It is good to look at the things they point out, but you ought to decide if those details are "good" or "bad" on your own. Of course it's important for an artist to learn basic ideas and skills or else it's difficult to work and grow-- but keep in mind it's also impossible to grow if you get shut into particular ways of thinking.


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My fav was the Petree one lol that was awsome that someone did that..very creative!
haha, thank you for the compliment-- I appreciate the feedback a lot. I was very proud of that scape.
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