As human beings, the fact we are merely mortals carries with it a certain need for success, I think. The clock is ticking and there is something we must be here to accomplish before its over, right? So, we stumble through our lives making choices. Some right and some not so right.
But we always focus on only those that were PERFECT. Those others sing our praises for. No one ever seems to want to hang around us much when we belly flop- especially when we flop big. Most scatter as far from us as possible, leaving us alone with the mess. It’s a shame really because it makes us think inappropriately about the meaning and value of failure to our growth and development.
Thanks Chip Hessenflow for the link to this article. Readers keep them coming!
From The Chronicle of Higher Education
November 21, 2010 written by By Evan R. Goldstein
Nothing Succeeds Like Failure
This year the artist Michael Landy built a 130,000-gallon trash can inside a London gallery and invited fellow artists to toss their unsuccessful works into the garbage. One thousand pieces were destroyed during the exhibit’s three-month run. Landy called his pile of disposed art a “monument to creative failure.”
Landy is not among the contributors to Failure (MIT Press), a collection of meditations on misfiring edited by Lisa Le Feuvre, but the spirit of his “Art Bin” is present on nearly every page. Le Feuvre, who is director of sculpture studies at the Henry Moore Institute, in Leeds, England, culled previously published interviews, journal and magazine articles, and books to amass a wide-ranging compendium. Søren Kierke-gaard, Karl Popper, John Cage, and Giorgio Agamben are among those Le Feuvre turns to for insight.
Perhaps most interesting is an interview with Scott Sandage, an associate professor of history at Carnegie Mellon University and author of Born Losers: A History of Failure in America. Sandage explains that America’s relationship with failure has evolved over time, noting that the word initially applied only to matters of business, not character. Up until the Civil War, he argues, people who suffered economic misfortune were described as making a failure, not being a failure. Sandage asks: “Why have we as a culture embraced modes of identity where we measure our souls using business models?”
The answer, he suggests, has to do with the end of slavery. Around that time, Sandage says, the two primary identities in American life shifted from “slave” and “free” to “success” and “failure.”
In the arts, Le Feuvre emphasizes in a brief introduction, failure is central to the creative process. A number of artists explain how falling short can be a catalyst for innovation; or, as Le Feuvre nicely puts it: “Through failure one has the potential to stumble on the unexpected.” The conceptual artist John Baldessari adds this bit of wisdom: “Art comes out of failure.”
And for some, failure is itself the stuff of art. For instance, incompetence is a central theme in the work of the Swedish artist Annika Ström. In a short video titled After Film, Ström documents the failure of her first (imagined) feature movie. In the script, friends and neighbors speculate as to why Ström, in the wake of the movie’s bombing, has disappeared. The critic Lotte Møller argues that Ström’s work questions “the predominant values of a success-oriented society.”
Failure brims with inspirational quips. “To be an artist is to fail as no other dare fail,” according to Samuel Beckett; the painter and filmmaker Julian Schnabel describes his work as a “bouquet of mistakes”; the sculptor Joel Fisher insists that “the failures of big ideas are more impressive than the successes of little ones.”
Reading page after page of paeans to failure has the effect of turning conventional wisdom on its head: Perhaps it is not failing that should worry us most.