In a recent article, I mentioned the Bulwer-Lytton fiction contest, the aim of which is to compose an opening to the worst novel ever written. Inspired by this I organized an annual painting competition, the aim of which is to produce the worst picture ever painted. I named the contest after Pavel Jerdanowitch, the founder of the Disumbrationist School of art . The visitors to my website determine the outcome of the contest. Each visitor sees five pictures randomly selected by the script from all of the contest entries and chooses the worst of them. The ratio of the number of times a given picture was selected the worst to the total number of times the picture was shown, I call a picture’s badness. The loser of the contest is the picture with the maximum badness. For example, Figure 1 shows the loser of the 2007 Pavel Jerdanowitch Painting Contest, which has the badness of 0.48.
Figure 1. "oblatenart bohnenkopfteller" by kunst/gruppe olga. With this picture the
art-technology-philosophy group "kunst/gruppe olga" wants to explore the actual power of
conformism in modern art and to enable the viewer to get an idea of the creation of
interdisciplinary art work(eating & painting). This is a political statement against
Neoconservativism and the fragmentation of our society. Here kunst/gruppe olga represents
a radical point of view: art is anything – anything is art.
Figure 2 shows the histogram of badness of all of the paintings that participated in seven annual Pavel Jerdanowitch contests from 2006 until 2012. A remarkable property of this distribution is that it shows no stratification. The worst painting in the sample is the loser of the 2012 contest. It has a badness of 0.64, which is 3.6 times bigger than the median badness of 0.18. Of course, this difference is significant but it is not enormous. Thus, the worst painting is not fundamentally worse than an average contest entry. This fact we can also illustrate by looking at individual votes. In one instance, the contest loser with a badness of 0.64 was displayed alongside a picture with a badness of 0.08 and the voter selected the 0.08-badness picture as the worst.
Figure 2. The histogram of badness of 610 paintings in the Pavel Jerdanowitch contest
between 2006 and 2012.