CO 2018 Arts: Apology and discussion

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CO 2018 Arts: Apology and discussion

Post by vinteuil » Tue Jul 24, 2018 11:27 am

So, I’ve heard from a number of people (particularly experienced quizbowl arts specialists) that the "world art" content didn’t, from a playability standpoint, come off so well. I can only apologize for that.* Knowing the intense outside-of-qb interest many quizbowlers (including almost all of these exact people!) have in the arts, knowing their interests in world literature and “culture,” and based on a couple of (misleading, apparently!) datapoints, I thought that expanding "world art" to a full ⅓ of the distribution (where I think it belongs, at least for Nationals and above) right away would be exciting and affirming for, well, almost exactly the people who it ended up blindsiding; I’m sorry for making the play experience as frustrating as it was. At the very least, I hope I succeeded in my goal of making almost every "world" tossup absolutely gettable near the end from general "cultural" knowledge or via tie-ins to more traditional arts topics.

Based on an enlightening conversation I had with Halle, I think there might be another part to the problem: I had fairly expansive subdistributions for more traditional qb arts topics that often get lumped into "other arts"—3/3 jazz, a bit more than 3/3 western sculpture, a bit more than 1/1 western photography. I planned for ½ each of the visual and auditory arts to be "western painting" and "western art music"; it ended up with something like 40% western painting because I forgot to readjust that particular subdistribution when we ditched an editors’ packet last week. Moreover, a fair chunk of my painting questions and clues were on slightly less "traditional" surfaces, e.g. books. So not only was there ⅓ "world’ content, there was mucht less than ½ "Pinacotheca" content. (I’m not using this word to be pretentious; “museum” would just imply much more in the way of objects, antiquities, and world art.) The same isn’t true for music though, and I even had 2/2 very traditional (and 1/0 very "current") opera to supplement it.

I also want to apologize for some more specific things:
  • The length of much of the Thought, which i was mostly supposed to be responsible for trimming,
  • My Pyrrhonism TU, which never made "skepticism" outright incorrect (it was thus accepted on protest, but obviously that’s not fair to the rest of you)
  • Some confusing wording (eg in the Scrolls and haMotzi TUs)
  • Some incomplete or missing prompts
  • Some fairly uneven bonus difficulty (across the set, but my stuff was absolutely no exception); we had a range of maybe 35-55% conversion, and ended up gravitating toward either end of that range, making the unevenness extremely noticeable
  • Some pretty lumpy subdistributing—after asking you not to submit 2 "audiovisual" questions, I often (inexplicably in several cases!) packetized them together; some packets had 3 world art questions while others had 1.
Again, I’m deeply sorry that people’s playing experience suffered due to these problems, several of which were stupid oversights.

*To be clear, I’m apologizing for the effect of this content on gameplay. I have absolutely zero intellectual sympathy for people who feel marginalized by European elite art forms (in the case of painting, one specific art form!) being reduced from “dominant” to merely “central” in the distribution.
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Re: CO 2018 Arts: Apology and discussion

Post by Cheynem » Tue Jul 24, 2018 11:48 am

I actually enjoyed the different take on art, although I don't particularly enjoy a lot of European art.

The photography was pretty neat and tried doing some interesting things. The film had good ideas and answerlines (I can't comment on the clues just yet).
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Re: CO 2018 Arts: Apology and discussion

Post by Periplus of the Erythraean Sea » Tue Jul 24, 2018 1:07 pm

Copied from other thread:
me wrote:I'd like to make a few comments on the decision to include more art questions from outside of the traditional Western art canon. I personally would have favored a more gradualistic approach to introducing such questions, but it was nonetheless exciting to see a number of such questions - both because I find them personally interesting and because I tend to do quite well on such questions. However, I think I speak for a number of people when I say that the construction of these questions prevented many people who actually do possess some knowledge of these, or who have interacted with art outside of the traditional Western art canon in multiple ways, from being able to buzz on them before other people who "figured it out."

I'll illustrate with a few examples:
Packet 3 wrote:17. A beam in this city is decorated with a motif of small circles inside excised diamonds that references the pattern of a nearby chikuva. Peter Garlake’s taxonomy of a set of objects from this city places them into different groups depending on whether they depict their subjects with straight or squatting legs. According to one interpretation, those objects from this city are depictions of the shiri ye denga believed to use lightning to “stitch together heaven and earth.” Thomas Huffman has argued that the double (*) chevron and the crocodile image that appear on an object from this city reflect its use for divining the presence of witches with the help of royal ancestors. In the 1880s, six sculptures that sit atop monoliths were moved from their original location in this city’s Eastern Enclosure, which lies within its Hill Complex. Willi Posselt hacked off the base of an artwork he found in this city and sold it to Cecil Rhodes. A national emblem was inspired by the design of eight soapstone birds found in—for 10 points—what medieval African city?
ANSWER: Great Zimbabwe [prompt on partial answer]
This tossup is problematic because it is extremely transparent in a way that is mis-calibrated for CO difficulty. The clues I've highlighted in red are context clues that help many knowledgeable people zero in quickly on the fact that, to paraphrase Alston Boyd, "this is a city, probably in Africa, likely in East Africa. We don't know much about it, but it is clearly important!" Writing a question this way (perhaps with fewer clues / cutting to the chase a bit) is fine for regular difficulty, but in our game against Chris Ray's team this tossup quickly became an extremely frustrating eight way staring contest. Effectively, it immediately became a bad history tossup, rather than an inspired art question. I think this could have been done better if it asked for a specific material, or maybe if it didn't tip its hand linguistically.
Packet 6 wrote:4. A bronze statue from this dynasty in the Met includes hand-like tendrils of flame on its outer circle, which is connected to the main figure’s head by thick, wire-like hairs. A building from this dynasty includes 81 out of a projected 108 sculptures intended to sequentially depict every poses described in an ancient performing arts treatise. The main tower of that building from this dynasty is topped by an 80-ton, cupola-shaped capstone, and was built without mortar in a series of 13 progressively smaller granite squares on 100-foot-square base. A temple built by a member of this dynasty was the first to have a monumental multi-story (*) gopuram, or gateway, which is dominated by its 208-foot vimana tower. This dynasty built three “Great Living Temples,” one of which was by far the largest in India when it was built around the year 1000. The Briha·dish·vara Temple in Thanjavur was built by Rajaraja I of—for 10 points—what medieval dynasty of South India?
ANSWER: Chola dynasty
<Other Fine Arts>
I think this question does a pretty decent job with its first two clues - the clue about a performing arts treatise seems like something that's not just unique but memorable, and pretty much anything in the Met seems like a fine first clue for CO. However, the next two clues (highlighted in red) seem very non-memorable (particularly if you're familiar with broader South/Southeast Asian architecture trends) and read like something that was ripped directly out of a textbook. All four members of my team were slamming their buzzers on Rajaraja I. I'd have to think seriously about how this could be improved, but having a few more evocative clues like the early ones would have helped.
Editors 3 wrote:15. An “intercultural history” of these artworks was co-edited by longtime curator Aldona Jonaitis. These artworks seem to have been fairly rare before the 19th century, and new production had mostly stopped by the death of Albert Edenshaw in 1894. These are the largest artworks made in what Bill Holm dubbed the “formline” style. Scholars like Hilary Stewart typically classify these objects as “memorial,” “mortuary,” or “frontal.” Another type of these artworks includes caricatures of their subjects and is thus called “shame.” Along with (*) Chilkat weaving, these sculptures are the most famous artistic productions of the Haida and Tlingit peoples. The crests of these objects often depict Raven, but they usually put the most important figure on the bottom. A cedarwood trunk is used to make—for 10 points—what sculptures made by Native Americans of the Northwest Coast?
ANSWER: totem poles [prompt on partial answer; prompt on wood carvings or similar]
<Visual Arts>
So, this question was personally very frustrating for me because, several years ago in Alaska, I attended a workshop in which a Tlingit artist explained how he made totem poles and a guide walked the audience through the symbology of totem poles. Perhaps that's just bad luck that nothing I learned during this personal experience was rewarded in this question - the "shame" clue is vaguely familiar, but I had no idea what was going on when playing this question, and without any context that clue was impossible to buzz on. Indeed, the fact that the tossup implies that people stopped making totem poles in 1894 (or at least until a revival of the art form, though that's not mentioned explicitly) ruled that answer out for me, because I had watched living Native American artists carve totem poles, presumably making a naive person such as myself think that people actually still made totem poles to this day, regardless of whether they carry the same weight of social meaning as they once did.

Instead, what this question presents is a litany of secondary source analyses completely robbed of context. If the number of people in the CO audience who were familiar with these clues were greater than the number of editors who were, I would be extremely surprised. I sympathize with the writer's decision to do this, given that it can be hard to find contextual clues that point people strongly in the direction of Native American art (EDIT: while avoiding transparency). However, the way this question practically played out was as an eight way buzzer race at the first mention of a famous Pacific Northwest people, the Haida. Having a game between two title-contending teams decided in part by such a question was immensely frustrating. Practically, this question on "non-Western art" rewards either (1) familiarity with Western scholarship, highlighted in red, or (2) knowing the names of Pacific Northwest peoples.

The above illustrates I problem which I think the visual arts in particular suffered from in general. To analogize with Korzybski, I think the visual art questions overall suffered from a problem in which they asked too much about "maps" (representations of objects - or in this case, in a loose analogy, secondary literature and analyses) and not enough about "territories" (the works themselves). Beyond this, clues about how works of art were made were heavily favored over clues about what can be gleaned by interacting with their pure visual elements. I appreciate that quizbowl is an "academic competition" and that art history, art history terminology, and reconstructing the artist's methods and milieu may be topics of primary concern to art historians, as well as topics that can be learned by visiting a museum. Past art questions focused myopically on visual details, often minor ones, at the expanse of the wide range of topics mentioned in the artworld. These questions did the opposite - I haven't done an exact count, but I'm pretty positive that there were at least twice as many clues (particularly early and middle clues) that rewarded knowledge of making art as those that rewarded knowledge of visually appreciating it. Fortunately or unfortunately, quizbowl is not a community of artists and art historians, and many of us poor amateur appreciators were left completely out to dry.

I won't comment on similar issues with the auditory arts or other areas - I'll leave someone else to do that, or return to them at a later time. But I think, in a way, these illustrate the problem of the set at large - it was a victim of its own ambition, though not necessarily in a way that was uniform across the vast areas that Jacob, Auroni, Jordan, and their collaborators poured their heart and soul into over the past several months. This contributed to a difficulty problem which was extremely striking, considering that the editors promised at the outset to reduce difficulty from the ramp-up of the past two sets. It seems like stats were up a bit overall, but definitely lower than in the (very hard) 2016 edition of this tournament.
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Re: CO 2018 Arts: Apology and discussion

Post by vinteuil » Tue Jul 24, 2018 2:40 pm

Will and I just had a pleasant chat, and it seems like we're on the same page—the majority of his post is very fair, and I'll be bearing his thoughts in mind in the future. I have a few quibbles and one larger points, which I'll preface in bold.

Quibble: I didn't think the Great Zimbabwe question was quite so transparent (it's not at all obvious that it's an ancient city, for starters!), but I could have done a lot more work to ensure that it stayed less obvious for longer. Same goes for the TU on byōbu.

I probably could have described the Rajarajeshvara temple more evocatively, but I do think that I hit all of the high points that anybody might learn by looking at or reading about it. This illustrates a larger point though: "primary" descriptions of even ultra-core, major individual "world" artworks are extremely hard as clues. That's why I focused so much on classification, materials, techniques, styles, and yes, scholarship. People mostly don't learn what individual Persian rugs look like; they very much do learn (at a museum exhibit; in a video) about the techniques that go into making them.

Will A. and I found out that we both learned about totem poles in the same place (Sitka), so this just shows that your experience can vary! I should have made that 1894 clue clearer—the point was that totem pole production peaked massively in the mid-late 19th century and fell off drastically, but there is indeed modern revivalism and some wonderful craft being practiced. But, like I said above, I focused on the kinds of clues ("formline", classification) that you'd learn from going to a museum exhibit (that's where I first encountered them!) or, yes, reading the Oxford history/World of Art volumes on Native American art. Moreover, all but one of those named scholars was tied directly to such a clue, merely as a way to "anchor" and specify the sentence. (I agree that the leadin was subpar, and I would have replaced it given more time.)

Outside of the "world" art, though, I really don't think this was much of a focus. Sometimes, yes, I constructed two lines of a tossup around secondary sources (self-portraits), but this was usually because those sources themselves are extremely important/knowable. I am 300% not an art historian (have never taken a class in art history!), and would never write clues just for art historian. I'm simply trying to write the clues that I think people are most likely to get—by finding the common denominator of many approaches to a topic (classification/materials/techniques/styles), or by writing on scholarship so major that people with an interest in art history in general would be likely to come across it.
Last edited by vinteuil on Tue Jul 24, 2018 3:03 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: CO 2018 Arts: Apology and discussion

Post by ErikC » Tue Jul 24, 2018 2:42 pm

For what it's worth, the clue about the "shame" totem poles reminded me a lot of the more strange faces I've seen on them at a local museum. However, I otherwise agree with Will about the over-use of Western written clues. Perhaps some clues describing techniques of their production would have been better for the section in power? That might have helped someone like Will who has actually watched them being made.

The violin in India question seemed to vex people, and someone in my room negged with an Indian instrument. I don't see why the whole question needed to be about just the violin in India - perhaps another use for it in a different culture?
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Re: CO 2018 Arts: Apology and discussion

Post by vinteuil » Tue Jul 24, 2018 2:49 pm

ErikC wrote:The violin in India question seemed to vex people, and someone in my room negged with an Indian instrument. I don't see why the whole question needed to be about just the violin in India - perhaps another use for it in a different culture?
Violins are probably the most-used and iconic melody instrument in South Indian music; string players with even some "cross-cultural" experience are likely to be aware of that. That's why I wrote it.

EDIT: I misread your post. I probably could have used a mariachi clue near the end, but I thought using clues that referenced the construction of the instrument would be good enough to smooth out the pyramid.
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Re: CO 2018 Arts: Apology and discussion

Post by Muriel Axon » Tue Jul 24, 2018 5:25 pm

I found the non-Western auditory art to be uniformly very good. I also appreciate the attention to balance over time and space of the non-Western art in general. I felt like the increase in non-Western art was worth the commensurate decrease in attention to painting and Western classical music, although the scale of this shift within a single tournament was a bit shocking.
Last edited by Muriel Axon on Tue Jul 24, 2018 5:28 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: CO 2018 Arts: Apology and discussion

Post by theMoMA » Tue Jul 24, 2018 5:26 pm

I realize this topic is likely nestled inside the larger academic debate about the artificial distinction between "art" and "artifact," but perhaps for quizbowl purposes that's not the field of play for this particular discussion. I say this because quizbowl is primarily concerned with knowledge binaries, such as title to author, character to book, scientist to discovery, general to battle, etc. (These are, of course, just as artificial as the creator/work binary underlying western cultural production, but a key distinction is that hopefully no one here will try to argue that quizbowl's binaries are natural.) Simply knowing of the existence of something will leave a player, as in the famous example, proclaiming "that's a thing, Mike Sorice" after failing to convert a question. This seems like an incredibly trite observation, but you generally have to know something else about the topic other than its mere existence to get points.

The big question about "world art" is, generally speaking, what that second piece of information is going to be. Because contemporary culture, following the western tradition, places heavy emphasis on the creator-work binary, this isn't something writers have to think about much when asking a question on a painting. The most famous thing about a contemporary (or ancient western) work of art is almost certainly its creator (and a basic description of the work, to distinguish it from all of the other things that creator made). Of course, this leaves out the artworks of most of the world's cultures, which tended to develop without a strong identification of artwork with artist (as a broad generalization--some of it has to do with western carelessness about learning such things and the general passage of time and loss of sources as well). And that is a shame, because there's a reason the world's great art museums are overflowing with beautiful artworks that don't have the benefit of having a name to study on the plaque in front of them--these constitute a majority of the world's artistic tradition and heritage. It seems well worth finding a way to ask about these works and topics despite the relative challenge compared to writing more standard fare.

That said, there *is* a big challenge in doing so. The issue is perhaps an applied version of the "art" vs. "artifact" debate, but I offer this framework not to disclaim nonwestern art's status as art in some abstract sense, because I feel strongly that it is art and is worth asking about as such. The question, for me, is how to do that, rather than to establish a place for what are essentially geography, anthropology, or cultural history questions within the art distribution.

Perhaps this warrants another disclaimer: I think that learning the geography, anthropology, and cultural history of the world's artistic traditions is something that a true student of this planet's art history has to do, but this is a game, and its rules require allotting fractions of varying sizes to the sum total of human knowledge more or less arbitrarily. In that framework, there are already places for questions on geography, anthropology, and cultural history, and in this game, there are already players with established skills at those topics, who likely have acquired those skills independent of much thought about the world's artistic traditions. (And if you need any convincing that this is the case, the history of these forums suggests that this thread will prove it up, with those regarded as "history" or "social science" players invariably finding ways to justify more world art, while those regarded as "arts" or "humanities" players invariably voice objections; I'm generally agnostic between these two categories, but I'm sure I'd find a reason to object if a science cabal suggested finding room for organic chemistry in the history distribution.)

I don't think I've organized these thoughts particularly well, but I now return to the idea of knowledge binaries. The issue, it seems to me, with a lot of these world art questions is that, no matter how artistic the answer line is, many of the second pieces of the binaries that players will rely upon to arrive at that answer will come from cultural history, anthropology, and geography. And if you bust open the canon and ask for dozens of such topics with little advance warning, the people who will benefit are the people who study cultural history, anthropology, and geography, and the people who will lose out are the people who study art, even though the people who studied the former probably didn't intend to learn about art, and even though the people who studied the latter certainly did.

I think the goal should be asking about world art topics to the extent that people become interested in them and begin to cultivate knowledge of these works of art *as art*, not simply rewarding players who already happen to possess geographic, linguistic, anthropological, or cultural historical knowledge by also offering them lots of points in the arts distribution (and certainly not while adopting a scolding posture toward those who have studied for the arts distribution as it has been, not the arts distribution as it appeared last weekend in a never-before-seen form).

To wrap things up, I have to say that I enjoyed several of these questions and think that asking about world art is an idea whose time has come. But I think it needs to be done more gradually, with an eye toward guiding arts players to rewarding new artistic topics to learn about, rather than doing it all at once in a way that generally leads to arts-player befuddlement and lots of late-middle clues and giveaways for more history- and social-sciences-oriented players to gobble up. And I think these questions should be crafted very carefully to try to focus more narrowly on the practices and objects of art, rather than broader geographical, anthropological, or cultural clues that people have likely studied in other contexts.
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Re: CO 2018 Arts: Apology and discussion

Post by vinteuil » Tue Jul 24, 2018 6:47 pm

Andrew, I don’t disagree with your post, and it helpfully diagnoses a big part of the frustrafion from the set—thanks. But your argument cuts both ways. “Art is made in a historical and cultural context, therefore we can ask about it as history and human culture” seems just as good as “Historical and cultural contexts inform art, therefore we can ask about them as art.”

I say this because those clues were uniformly late, to make mostly-“aesthetic” questions truly gettable—gradualism, just of a different kind from what you’re advocating.
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Re: CO 2018 Arts: Apology and discussion

Post by Muriel Axon » Tue Jul 24, 2018 9:25 pm

The good thing about promoting non-Western art as a part of the art distribution is that it creates space for these works to be asked about as art, as Andrew suggests. Many times, I've stuffed questions about music (Western and non-Western) that isn't part of the classical or jazz traditions into "geography" or "other" -- but in that context, it often seems inappropriate to say much about the theory and forms underlying the music itself. The auditory non-Western/folk art questions in CO this year included a lot of fascinating musical detail in ways that, I think, approach the ideal that Andrew is talking about.

I also agree with Jacob that historical and cultural context is and deserves to be a part of how we ask about all art. I remember that a very good music player told me that he didn't like music questions that rely on literary knowledge -- for example, a question on Heine from musical settings of Heine poems. My thought was: There is certainly a wrong and boring way to write these questions, but if a composer chose to set a Heine poem or adapt a Pushkin story, they most likely had a reason for doing so that's not easily extricable from the music itself. There's nothing wrong with focusing on that fact in the way that we quite uncontroversially may focus on other facets of a composition's background, like nationality. Similarly, I agree with Andrew that questions on gamelan or Scottish music or whatever shouldn't be all about cultural and geographic factors surrounding the music, but it seems fine to include details about culture that help make sense of the music. I don't think anyone would disagree with this point as stated, so I wonder if anyone thinks the balance in this tournament was consistently off. I think it was fine, at least among auditory questions.
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Re: CO 2018 Arts: Apology and discussion

Post by vinteuil » Tue Jul 24, 2018 10:25 pm

Two disconnected thoughts:

1.
Caleb, in the other thread wrote:few people actually study nonwestern art in the real world. For example, this semester at OU there are 25 art history classes offered, only one of which is a nonwestern art class. As someone who believes that quizbowl ought to roughly track the academy, I think that this drastic increase in nonwestern art is a pretty terrible idea.
I was actually planning to defend the proportion of non-western art by pointing out the faculty compositions of a number of well-known departments at highly-ranked research institutions; at most such schools, the number of tenured professors working on European art ca.1200-1945 is usually between 3 and 6, while there are typically at least one specialist each on South Asian, East Asian, African, Islamic, and Latin/Mesoamerican art, along with between 3-6 for contemporary art of all kinds. (Many schools double up on a few of these categories at the expense of others, but the ratio is very similar.)

I didn't take into account that the whole variety of quizbowl-competitive schools might have such a significant difference in what courses they offer; I had no idea that UNC's faculty would look so different from OK's! (It is incidentally EXTREMELY impressive to me that a department with a faculty of 9, 2 of whom work on American Indian art, can manage such a courseload in one semester.)
Mike Bentley, in the other thread wrote:Yeah I agree that 1/3 non-western art seems awfully high given the prominence of it...among the general art-going public.
Maybe this is New York bias, but I was partly hoping for the content to be accessible precisely because of the huge reception many non-Western art shows (e.g. the Seljuk exhibit at the Met a few years ago) have gotten in recent years. In my experience, the truly "general" art-going public is going for interesting things and stuff they've heard of: yes Rembrandt, but also Ming vases and Islamic decorative arts and Persian rugs.

2. I want to taxonomize a little. Outside the music, we had this 5/4: [redacted from Finals 2], recent Chilean architecture, Jodorowsky, Cuban painters, Danh Vo, Taiwanese and Thai and Senegalese cinema, Mexico from Buñuel, and art surrounding Tiananmen.

I suspect that these questions didn’t go over so poorly. (And I wonder if people realized that I’d counted the Buñuel question as "world"?) They were on more recent artworks that are fundamentally in some kind of European tradition; their creators get exhibited and talked about in conjunction with European and Americans, and many of them already come up in quizbowl as a result. So, these questions were pretty hard, but for more traditional CO reasons: they’re following existing threads in the QB canon.

That leaves 1/4 of the arts as "non-QB-traditional world," including 2 music tossups that were mixed with at least 50% Western clues.
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Re: CO 2018 Arts: Apology and discussion

Post by Cheynem » Tue Jul 24, 2018 10:41 pm

Can I see the Bunuel tossup? I remember at game speed having to recognize that this was about Bunuel's Mexican period to be somewhat tricky. I knew The Exterminating Angel was made in Mexico, but the film is also commonly interpreted as a metaphor about Franco Spain, for example.
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Re: CO 2018 Arts: Apology and discussion

Post by vinteuil » Tue Jul 24, 2018 10:47 pm

Cheynem wrote:Can I see the Bunuel tossup? I remember at game speed having to recognize that this was about Bunuel's Mexican period to be somewhat tricky. I knew The Exterminating Angel was made in Mexico, but the film is also commonly interpreted as a metaphor about Franco Spain, for example.
CO 2018, Editors 3 wrote: At the end of a short film made in this country, the camera zooms in on the title character’s abode, defocuses, and then rotates into aerial shots of a cityscape, before cutting to a nightclub with a live rock band. In a Neorealism-inspired film from this country, a boy throws an egg at the camera before killing two chickens at a “farm school” for delinquent boys. A 45-minute film made in this country ends with Satan showing the dance “Radioactive Flesh” to the title saint. Another film made in this country ends with shots of church bells ringing, riot police shooting into a crowd, and a flock of sheep heading into the church. In this country, Gustavo (*) Alatriste produced several movies starring his wife Silvia Pinal. In a film made in this country, the guests at a dinner party find themselves inexplicably trapped in a mansion. After being re-exiled for Viridiana, a director returned to this country to make Simon of the Desert and The Exterminating Angel. For 10 points, name this country where Luis Buñuel worked for most of the ‘40s and ‘50s.
ANSWER: Mexico [or United Mexican States; or Estados Unidos Mexicanos] (The second film is Los Olvidados.)
<Other Arts>
I specified "made in this country" and not "from this country" hoping to avoid this scenario—sorry it didn't work!
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Re: CO 2018 Arts: Apology and discussion

Post by Borrowing 100,000 Arrows » Tue Jul 24, 2018 10:56 pm

Cheynem wrote:Can I see the Bunuel tossup? I remember at game speed having to recognize that this was about Bunuel's Mexican period to be somewhat tricky. I knew The Exterminating Angel was made in Mexico, but the film is also commonly interpreted as a metaphor about Franco Spain, for example.
I made this exact neg. At game speed, it is very hard to separate "made in this country" from "set in this country," especially when the director is originally from the country where the film is set.

That aside, I really liked the film in this set. Lots of really well executed tossups on very canonical things.
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Re: CO 2018 Arts: Apology and discussion

Post by vinteuil » Tue Jul 24, 2018 11:04 pm

gyre and gimble, in the other thread wrote: The same goes for floor space at museums. Having been to many, many art museums I can say with confidence that the concentration of museumgoers gravitates heavily toward western art. It doesn’t mean much for a museum to have half its floor space devoted to Asian or African art if that floor space is largely empty of visitors.
Here's something concrete: https://www.theartnewspaper.com/analysi ... rn-masters and https://www.theartnewspaper.com/feature ... gures-2017 (Asian art exhibits do as well or better than Old Masters; contemporary art does very well).

Another comparison: in London, the British Museum (world art and "objects") usually ranks just above the National Gallery (traditional QB Western visual arts) in attendance.
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Re: CO 2018 Arts: Apology and discussion

Post by gyre and gimble » Tue Jul 24, 2018 11:48 pm

vinteuil wrote:
gyre and gimble, in the other thread wrote: The same goes for floor space at museums. Having been to many, many art museums I can say with confidence that the concentration of museumgoers gravitates heavily toward western art. It doesn’t mean much for a museum to have half its floor space devoted to Asian or African art if that floor space is largely empty of visitors.
Here's something concrete: https://www.theartnewspaper.com/analysi ... rn-masters and https://www.theartnewspaper.com/feature ... gures-2017 (Asian art exhibits do as well or better than Old Masters; contemporary art does very well).

Another comparison: in London, the British Museum (world art and "objects") usually ranks just above the National Gallery (traditional QB Western visual arts) in attendance.
A few things in response:

1. Maybe the first thing we should figure out is what section of the "public" should inform our debate about the quizbowl arts distribution. I don't think the fact that lots of (presumably) Japanese people went to a show about a Japanese artist in Japan's largest art museum is particularly enlightening. If that show were at the Met, I suspect that it would have garnered fewer visitors (just look at the numbers for the Chinese art show at the Met in your second link).

2. As a more general matter, I don't think that major exhibitions shed that much light on what interests the public. The number of people who attended any given show is likely more influenced by the time of year, the reputation of the museum, the marketing, and similar factors.

3. I went to both the British Museum and the National Gallery with my roommate last year. He was more interested in the British Museum, not because it featured non-western art, but because he likes history--to him, the objects there were more illustrations of ancient cultures than art pieces with intrinsic aesthetic value. (He likes dioramas, too.) Again, this is only anecdotal, but observing the other visitors around me and how they interacted with the works in the museum suggested to me that they were there at least as much for the archaeology, anthropology, and history as they were for the art. Now, I understand that for much, if not all, art these aspects are inseparable from the art-objects themselves, but in quizbowl we categorize things according to a set distribution (which already devotes 20% of questions to history) and we need to draw the line somewhere. I think that line should be drawn so that art questions reward art players over history players.

4. In any case, thanks for the concrete numbers. They always make for a richer and better-informed discussion. With no such numbers of my own, I hate to revert to anecdotal evidence, but let me ask: In your experience as a museumgoer, have you observed high concentrations of people in non-western art sections? I don't know if it's my own biases that are affecting my memory, but I genuinely don't think I have ever seen non-western art draw visitors in numbers even remotely comparable to western art.
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Re: CO 2018 Arts: Apology and discussion

Post by vinteuil » Wed Jul 25, 2018 12:00 am

gyre and gimble wrote:
vinteuil wrote:
gyre and gimble, in the other thread wrote: The same goes for floor space at museums. Having been to many, many art museums I can say with confidence that the concentration of museumgoers gravitates heavily toward western art. It doesn’t mean much for a museum to have half its floor space devoted to Asian or African art if that floor space is largely empty of visitors.
Here's something concrete: https://www.theartnewspaper.com/analysi ... rn-masters and https://www.theartnewspaper.com/feature ... gures-2017 (Asian art exhibits do as well or better than Old Masters; contemporary art does very well).

Another comparison: in London, the British Museum (world art and "objects") usually ranks just above the National Gallery (traditional QB Western visual arts) in attendance.
A few things in response:

1. Maybe the first thing we should figure out is what section of the "public" should inform our debate about the quizbowl arts distribution. I don't think the fact that lots of (presumably) Japanese people went to a show about a Japanese artist in Japan's largest art museum is particularly enlightening. If that show were at the Met, I suspect that it would have garnered fewer visitors (just look at the numbers for the Chinese art show at the Met in your second link).
I should have pointed out the specific thing that jumped out at me: the top Met museum exhibit on Old Masters painting (in fact, most of the exhibitions listed) got far fewer visits than its Chinese art show.
gyre and gimble wrote: 2. As a more general matter, I don't think that major exhibitions shed that much light on what interests the public. The number of people who attended any given show is likely more influenced by the time of year, the reputation of the museum, the marketing, and similar factors.

3. I went to both the British Museum and the National Gallery with my roommate last year. He was more interested in the British Museum, not because it featured non-western art, but because he likes history--to him, the objects there were more illustrations of ancient cultures than art pieces with intrinsic aesthetic value. (He likes dioramas, too.) Again, this is only anecdotal, but observing the other visitors around me and how they interacted with the works in the museum suggested to me that they were there at least as much for the archaeology, anthropology, and history as they were for the art. Now, I understand that for much, if not all, art these aspects are inseparable from the art-objects themselves, but in quizbowl we categorize things according to a set distribution (which already devotes 20% of questions to history) and we need to draw the line somewhere. I think that line should be drawn so that art questions reward art players over history players.

4. In any case, thanks for the concrete numbers. They always make for a richer and better-informed discussion. With no such numbers of my own, I hate to revert to anecdotal evidence, but let me ask: In your experience as a museumgoer, have you observed high concentrations of people in non-western art sections? I don't know if it's my own biases that are affecting my memory, but I genuinely don't think I have ever seen non-western art draw visitors in numbers even remotely comparable to western art.
These are all fair (esp. 2), and 3. meshes with Andrew's point above. As for 4. (sticking with the most general museum I have a lot of experience with), I guess I've never really seen many people at all around the lesser-known European masterpieces in the Met (e.g. the Petrus Christus portraits), but it's true that the crowds in the Impressionism rooms are much bigger than the slightly more scattered crowds in the Islamic or African/American/Oceanian rooms (Asian art is very difficult to judge "attendance by Americans" because of tourism, but those galleries seem to draw crowds comparable to the Renaissance art). And to mesh with 3., the other really big crowds are for the Egyptian stuff, if mostly not "as art."
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Re: CO 2018 Arts: Apology and discussion

Post by gyre and gimble » Wed Jul 25, 2018 12:10 am

vinteuil wrote:I should have pointed out the specific thing that jumped out at me: the top Met museum exhibit on Old Masters painting (in fact, most of the exhibitions listed) got far fewer visits than its Chinese art show.
Ah, I see. For what it's worth, I agree that we should be writing more questions on Han and Qin art than on Cristobal de Villalpando.

Fascinating statistics in general.
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Re: CO 2018 Arts: Apology and discussion

Post by vinteuil » Wed Jul 25, 2018 12:30 am

gyre and gimble wrote:
vinteuil wrote:I should have pointed out the specific thing that jumped out at me: the top Met museum exhibit on Old Masters painting (in fact, most of the exhibitions listed) got far fewer visits than its Chinese art show.
Ah, I see. For what it's worth, I agree that we should be writing more questions on Han and Qin art than on Cristobal de Villalpando.

Fascinating statistics in general.
I'll concede that I was trying to draw the wrong kind of conclusion from the wrong kind of data here. I hope the point (that such exhibitions often achieve notoriety in and of themselves) more or less stands.
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Re: CO 2018 Arts: Apology and discussion

Post by theMoMA » Wed Jul 25, 2018 10:03 am

I think the Tienanmen Square tossup is probably a good example of a tossup that, in many rooms, played as six or seven lines of an art tossup that no one got, followed by a very short history tossup on Tienanmen Square (at the mention of the Goddess of Democracy statue). I don't doubt that there are people who follow contemporary Chinese art to the extent that they were able to get the tossup before that clue, but I suspect those who got the tossup later on got it from their general historical knowledge, quite possibly because they wrote a high school tossup with the Goddess of Democracy as an early clue.

I don't mean to suggest that art never interacts with other disciplines, or that those connections aren't important; on the contrary, it's clear to me that these are things worth asking about. The question for me is mainly one of how to ask these questions in a way that expands the player base's art knowledge into underrepresented areas rather than rewarding players' latent history (or linguistic, or anthropological, or other history/social science-like) knowledge. Maybe the approach of starting with a healthy dose of the kinds of questions that this tournament will put players on notice and cause earlier art buzzes to follow, but I suspect that it's probably better to write questions that mix early world art clues with later clues that connect those topics to easier, later clues that are still fairly "artistic" in nature.
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Re: CO 2018 Arts: Apology and discussion

Post by Ike » Wed Jul 25, 2018 3:25 pm

I appreciate the metrics on museum, but I think it misses a key point. Even though large portions of art museums are devoted to non-western items, I don't think the audience really has the "eye" to unpack and analyze these pieces in a way that is conducive for quizbowl. To clarify with my own example -- I've visited the Art Institute of Chicago enough times to have seen its permanent collection a few times over (humble brag). For me, it only took one visit to get all the "quizbowl-relevant" details of American Gothic, Ellsworth Kelly, etc. into my brain. But I must confess, even after seeing the rather extensive Southeast Asian and South Asian exhibits there, it's hard for me to extract "quizbowl-useful" facts from those artworks -- I still can't tell the art of the Chola apart from other South Asian art.

One explanation for this is the nature of the how western art is treated with respect to identification -- after all if the artworks of say Helen Frankenthaler and Morris Louis were examined 500 years in the future after the names and identities of artists have been lost to the sands of time, a tossup on the art of the "(20th)-century American Republic" might cause as much frustration as a tossup on the art of the "Chola" since quizbowl's hypothetical future audience is probably equally not well-equipped to distinguish 20th-century American art from a whole host of other theoretical answers, say 20th-century British art. Even among today's audiences, I doubt many of us really can--for the purposes of gradating quizbowl knowledge--identify key distinguishing features of "20th-century American art" versus "20th-century British art" using the same methods that would allow for the difference between "Chola" and "Indian" art to be easily distinguished (again for the purposes of quizbowl.)

This post is by no means an endorsement of any side in this debate, just an articulation of the challenges that one has to face if he / she is going to write any amount of world art.
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Re: CO 2018 Arts: Apology and discussion

Post by vinteuil » Thu Jul 26, 2018 1:19 pm

theMoMA wrote:I think the Tienanmen Square tossup is probably a good example of a tossup that, in many rooms, played as six or seven lines of an art tossup that no one got, followed by a very short history tossup on Tienanmen Square (at the mention of the Goddess of Democracy statue). I don't doubt that there are people who follow contemporary Chinese art to the extent that they were able to get the tossup before that clue, but I suspect those who got the tossup later on got it from their general historical knowledge, quite possibly because they wrote a high school tossup with the Goddess of Democracy as an early clue.
Andrew, I don’t think this is your best example. Not only is there a clue before that on a pretty well-known series by Ai Weiwei, but the Guo Jian meat-covered diorama got an absolutely enormous amount of coverage when he was detained in 2014.
theMoMA wrote:I don't mean to suggest that art never interacts with other disciplines, or that those connections aren't important; on the contrary, it's clear to me that these are things worth asking about. The question for me is mainly one of how to ask these questions in a way that expands the player base's art knowledge into underrepresented areas rather than rewarding players' latent history (or linguistic, or anthropological, or other history/social science-like) knowledge. Maybe the approach of starting with a healthy dose of the kinds of questions that this tournament will put players on notice and cause earlier art buzzes to follow, but I suspect that it's probably better to write questions that mix early world art clues with later clues that connect those topics to easier, later clues that are still fairly "artistic" in nature.
I’m beginning to think that our disagreement is rooted in fundamentally opposed ideas about how quizbowl categories are delineated. As far as I can tell from this and your lengthy post above, your position is that the arts categories should avoid "rewarding knowledge from other categories," and thus should exclude such content; on the other hand, in other categories—if I understand you correctly, history and geography are prime examples—"purity" is no problem at all. In fact, I understand you to mean that they are the perfect places for “impure” tossups that integrate clues about "general culture," including clues that might go in the arts distribution.

(First off, I doubt that other history players are really so sanguine. As Shan pointed out, my lengthy descriptions of The Court of Gayumars or the details of aesthetic principles surrounding Ming ceramics would be seriously out of place in a history question. And I know for a fact that a number of history players on these forums would violently object: that was the response to my "cultural history" thread last year.)

On the other side, I, a history-curious arts player, see no reason that "art clues" can go in history and not the other way around. To put the disagreement another way: I don't see the arts categories differently from the others, while you seem to hold them to a "higher" standard of "purity". If I've read you correctly, you're claiming that "art questions" should always be overwhelmingly about the aesthetic dimension (art "as art," you said), while history and geography questions are free (encouraged!) to take a variety of approaches to their topics. That is, a measure of aesthetic valuation decides which questions do and do not count as "art questions," while other categories are not held to a similar standard.

My core problem with this is: what is the effect of asking about an object “as art”? (How do we even decide what descriptions count as "artistic" in the first place?) In fact, there’s a huge danger here. Our deeply Eurocentric evaluations of what constitutes asking about art "as art" are extremely unlikely to do justice to the full range of global artistic production across the ages. Considering that the overwhelming majority of objects now treated as art (this goes for Europe too) were not produced "as art," and can thus not be fully understood "as art," it would be doing them a fatal disservice to consider them exclusively "as art." This is why scholars in the real world never do that (anymore at least); and this is why it is so important for the sign at the museum exhibit to tell you not only a little about how to "read" the Kente cloth but also to tell you what and and who it was for.

Now, in fact, I am in no way advocating for a radical shift to "contextual-based" art questions; I’m definitely not looking to replace every Caravaggio tossup with a question on Clement VIII (as true “modern scholarship bowl” might—try finding any discussions of style in Clare Robertson’s Rome 1600!). And, as everyone who played the set knows, I did nothing like that in my CO questions. Instead you got questions like the Umayyad Mosque tossup that combined traditional quizbowl art clues with some cultural and historical context. Or the Tiananmen question, which was entirely descriptions and titles of artworks until the penultimate sentence. I'm merely defending the inclusion of (a small amount of extremely relevant) contextual material, especially when it, from a pragmatic perspective, makes the tossup actually playable for an audience with a very limited number of "world art specialists" (fewer than I even thought).

Let me try an analogy. In modern quizbowl, we have some notion that science questions should be more or less “pure” of interventions from history etc. If you ask most science players why they want it that way, they usually reply that such clues are better for non-scientists than for scientists; they want their coursework and research rewarded above, e.g. science history and biography. (I’m not saying that this opinion is unanimous or that there isn’t room for a limited number of non-pure-classroom clues.)

But now apply this logic to the arts: the result would not even approach your level of category “purity.” Much the opposite; as I alluded to above, the modern academic study of the arts is thoroughly and wonderfully contextual. And this is doubly true for the “world arts,” which, as I pointed out above, can hardly be understood as artworks without some cultural and historical background. (Imagine learning about casta paintings purely “as art”. Now imagine asking about them purely “as art”—it’s just as silly.)

All this is to say that, by these lights, arts (just like any other category) doesn’t need to be, and perhaps can’t responsibly be kept 100% "pure"; according to my idea about quizbowl categories, the only reason ever to worry about purity is to make sure that people who actually study the material* (scientists, students of art history) don’t get shafted by quizbowlers memorizing unimportant clues.

I’ll more than happily meet you in the middle: the vast majority of clues in art questions should be on artworks and the ideas, institutions, materials, people, and techniques involved in making and appreciating them. But I think that almost every single one of my questions for this set already (even accounting for the scholarship clues!) met this standard.

I agree: art questions are our best and most natural space to ask about art objects “as art.” I just don’t think that every clue has to be of this kind. And I certainly don’t want to see art from 4.5/6 of the world’s continents loaded off onto distributional areas where it becomes unnatural to ask about them “as art.”

*In the particular case of world art at this tournament, were social science- and history-oriented players getting questions purely because of their "latent knowledge" in those areas? Or was it because they had actually learned about world artistic cultures from anthropological and historical writing?
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Re: CO 2018 Arts: Apology and discussion

Post by John Ketzkorn » Thu Jul 26, 2018 2:36 pm

vinteuil wrote:
theMoMA wrote:I think the Tienanmen Square tossup is probably a good example of a tossup that, in many rooms, played as six or seven lines of an art tossup that no one got, followed by a very short history tossup on Tienanmen Square (at the mention of the Goddess of Democracy statue). I don't doubt that there are people who follow contemporary Chinese art to the extent that they were able to get the tossup before that clue, but I suspect those who got the tossup later on got it from their general historical knowledge, quite possibly because they wrote a high school tossup with the Goddess of Democracy as an early clue.
Andrew, I don’t think this is your best example. Not only is there a clue before that on a pretty well-known series by Ai Weiwei, but the Guo Jian meat-covered diorama got an absolutely enormous amount of coverage when he was detained in 2014.
I'm not keen to take sides in this debate -- full disclosure, however, I do very poorly on history. That being said, I do think Andrew's point on the Tiananmen Square tossup is valid. I recognized the middle finger clue as Ai Weiwei, but at game speed, I couldn't place it to Tiananmen Square specifically (dude has taken a lot of perspective photos with his middle finger).

Coverage of an artistic piece from 4 years ago is still quite a difficult clue especially when the artist has never really come up at any difficulty before (as far as I'm aware). Effectively, in our room, this tossup played as a one line history tossup. That's not to say it didn't have fine clues, but I think a tossup on China cluing Guo Jian and Ai Weiwei would have played better.
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Re: CO 2018 Arts: Apology and discussion

Post by theMoMA » Thu Jul 26, 2018 2:45 pm

I think it can both be true that the tossup on Tienanmen Square was an interesting, gettable, and appropriate art tossup for a certain number of lines, and that some rooms converted it during those clues, and that it later became a much shorter tossup that other rooms, whose players didn't happen to know those earlier clues, converted based on their latent history knowledge (which is what happened in the room I was playing in). That was what I attempted to convey in my initial post, at least. I take no issue with the way the first parts of that question were clued, and I'm sure people who have encountered those topics and answered the question early because of it found them to be rewarding. I personally did not know or remember those clues well enough to answer the question, and although they seem interesting to me in retrospect, I did not find the scenario in which several players were jamming the buzzer at the mention of the "Goddess of Democracy" to be a particularly rewarding test of visual arts knowledge; one way to look at this is that we were presented with an interesting visual arts tossup that went dead, followed by a high school history tossup that decidedly did not go dead. If the question had simply gone on to describe more contextually evocative clues about various contemporary artists' responses to Tienanmen Square, I think that would have been great.

If I had to sum up my feelings on this, it'd be that these questions should try to avoid a structure in which they are a relatively challenging, new, and interesting arts tossup for the first large portion of text, followed by a much shorter and easier history, social science, or geography tossup for people who don't happen to know those arts clues. Rather, I think writers should attempt to marry their early and challenging arts clues to a back-end that also attempts to clue from a body of knowledge that players have likely encountered in the world of art.

I feel that the longer and more general part of your post is very reasonable, albeit targeted at an argument that I don't think I made. Perhaps I have been loose with the terminology. Saying "art as art" probably requires a bit more consideration of that phrase than I've provided, so let me clarify that I mean this in a pragmatic sense, based on the fact that this is a game that attempts to partition all things worth knowing into categories more or less arbitrarily, and that the players of the game bring to it different bodies of clue and contextual knowledge based on their interests. I certainly do not advocate for some kind of abstract category purity, and that should be apparent from the kinds of questions I favor writing. But I do think that writers should consider that players bring bodies of clue and contextual knowledge to the game, and should think about how the questions they are writing interact with that knowledge before crossing disciplines in a tossup. If the connection between the discipline you're writing in (such as art) with another discipline (such as history) is something you feel is worth asking about, I think you should find a way to test for the connection, rather than offering a set of clues from one side of the ledger and another set from the other, either in an alternating pattern or switching over sometime before the end.

With that in mind, I think it's pretty reasonable to assume that the reason a person knows of the existence of the "Goddess of Democracy" has a lot to do with the fact that they have written a lower-level history tossup on Tienanmen Square at some point in their life, and little to do with the fact that they care about contemporary Chinese art. Therefore, I would say that a late-middle clue on the Goddess of Democracy is out of place in a tossup ostensibly meant to see whether a person knows something about contemporary Chinese visual art, because the result (in rooms where no one happens to know the early clues) is that you have a high school history tossup following your interesting (but not converted) contemporary arts tossup. In short, in rooms lacking advanced knowledge of the topic, you likely have lots of people buzzing who haven't considered the role of Tienanmen Square in contemporary visual art, but simply know a history clue for Tienanmen Square. The topics are connected, but based on the way they've been asked about, the player doesn't have to have any knowledge of that connection to get points.

By contrast, asking about castas inevitably asks about the connection between art and history, such that a person who knows one (for instance, the existence of rigid racial hierarchies in Spanish colonies) but not the other (for instance, the existence of paintings documenting that phenomenon, or the name of such paintings) is out in the cold.
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Re: CO 2018 Arts: Apology and discussion

Post by ErikC » Thu Jul 26, 2018 10:47 pm

theMoMA wrote:I think it can both be true that the tossup on Tienanmen Square was an interesting, gettable, and appropriate art tossup for a certain number of lines, and that some rooms converted it during those clues, and that it later became a much shorter tossup that other rooms, whose players didn't happen to know those earlier clues, converted based on their latent history knowledge (which is what happened in the room I was playing in). That was what I attempted to convey in my initial post, at least. I take no issue with the way the first parts of that question were clued, and I'm sure people who have encountered those topics and answered the question early because of it found them to be rewarding. I personally did not know or remember those clues well enough to answer the question, and although they seem interesting to me in retrospect, I did not find the scenario in which several players were jamming the buzzer at the mention of the "Goddess of Democracy" to be a particularly rewarding test of visual arts knowledge; one way to look at this is that we were presented with an interesting visual arts tossup that went dead, followed by a high school history tossup that decidedly did not go dead. If the question had simply gone on to describe more contextually evocative clues about various contemporary artists' responses to Tienanmen Square, I think that would have been great.
I agree with Andrew on this completely. These kinds of questions do happen at tournaments of this level, nats level, and even somewhere below nats level. A common example is the "better known for" statement often heard when a sudden difficulty cliff occurs at the end of a question on an author, usually cluing from a genre they are less known for and suddenly cluing their most famous work. To clarify what I mean, imagine a tossup on Borges' poetry that ended with "identify this Argentinian author, who wrote Poem 1 and Poem 2 but is perhaps better known for short stories like The Garden of Forking Paths and The Library of Babel". This is option A for writing this question. Option B could be making the answerline Argentina, which basically becomes a buzzer-race in many games on Borges' name drop. Option C would transition to short-story clues earlier, and is how many successful tossups on writers are written.

CO is a hard tournament. Not every question needs to be convertible to all the teams playing. However, people don't like buzzer races. The Tienanmen square tossup was a buzzer race in at least two rooms (I believe we had the same Two Tossup Experience). I think CO tossups shouldn't be made convertible just by throwing context clues that double as easy history clues. There were plenty of tossups that didn't have this problem. But I think it might be easy to overestimate people's knowledge on things like "art about Tienanmen" and also their ability to, as Mike said, convert that tossup during the game.

I don't really know how to avoid the Two Tossup Problem because every question is different. I do think in this case one approach would be by cluing other works of the artists represented and having the answerline be China. The novelty of hearing an art tossup on Tienanmen Square is something to be appreciated, after all. But buzzer races seemed unusually prevalent this tournament and conflicted with what I expected from my first CO.
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