Performances by Ross Moreno, Christian Oittinen, and Ryan Wilsie begin at 8:30 p.m. Television For Ghosts, by Shalo P., will conclude the program at 10:00 p.m. as the doors close, and will continue into the night.
Shalo P, http://thatsforsure.net/shalo.php
Anna Pratt, annaprattjournalist.com
Jeff Ray, jeffrayart.com
Chris Sollars, http://667shotwell.com/ChrisSollars.html
Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore, http://www.mattildabernsteinsycamore.com/
Ryan Wilsie, http://boogrlips.blogspot.com/
Michael Zheng, http://michaelzheng.org/
Hosted by Louis V.E.S.P. in Brooklyn, The End of Failure features a group of contemporary artists and writers whose work operates with failure at its core. I invited participants in the exhibition to consider what place failure has had in their work at different points in their lives, and what their relationship to failure is today.
From liminal modes of artistic production to conscientious socio-political positioning as a daily performative act, “failure” has been adopted throughout recent art history as an alternative strategy for making things. I would argue that failure as a creative strategy emerged with the advent of the Avant-Garde in the mid-nineteenth century. It seems worth taking a moment to note that while failure, as a theme, can be located in a much longer and broader historical landscape, Avant-Garde movements including Dadaism, Surrealism, Conceptual Art, Anti-Art, and the Situationist International comprised the first wave of artists that created methodologies revolving around the purpose of rejecting bourgeois class values. Beyond artistic production, these groups worked to form practices that reflected a completely new way of operating in the world.
In more recent art history, many practices first introduced in these Avant-Garde experiments have become assimilated into the expansive array of methodological options available for our use and new interpretations of. Failure has been championed for its reputation as a strategy that carries radical connotations—one that implicitly rejects mainstream values and measures of success and creates a way to turn attention to things that may be otherwise ignored or erased.
Failure (Documents of Contemporary Art) (Lisa LeFeuvre, MIT Press, 2010), Beautiful Losers (directed by Aaron Rose and Joshua Leonard, Sidetrack Films, 2008), A Conference on Failure in the Arts (hosted by University at Buffalo’s Department of Visual Studies, February 2010) and P.S. 1’s event An Afternoon of Failure (April 2, 2011), are just several from an inventory of recent publications and exhibitions dedicated to the subject of failure in contemporary art.
While failure has been promoted from side note to superstar status by such exhibitions, I have been increasingly plagued with doubt and concern about the way that failure has had undue influence on my peers’ as well as my own work. For too long, I fear that we have become entangled with failure as a highly seductive strategy without maintaining active engagement in the process, or in the implications of these projects.
Please take note:
1. The work by folks in The End of Failure is among my favorite anywhere—I am by no means suggesting that we should retreat from seeking out working methods that repel mainstream notions of success and failure. I do, however, feel that we carry a responsibility to articulate what our past efforts around failure were about—it seems especially important that we not rely upon a vague or unspoken (“poetic”) assumption of failure.
2. I want to make sure, as well, that the concerns and reservations that I have about failure will not be misconstrued as a sentiment that pits failure with more minimalist or conceptual work, and post-failure work with well-crafted things. What I care about more than anything is creating spaces where artists are allowed to be smarter.
3. For all the wrong reasons, I tried to avoid boring everyone involved in The End of Failure by talking excessively about the structure of the project (administratively, politically, socially, aesthetically). This is one major failure on my part. I feel quite strongly about the need to make the space to address the institutional structures that we operate within, and derive support from; because such issues are part of a fair number of the contributors’ work, the conversations happened, but in kind of an awkward way.
The aesthetically and ideologically diverse work in The End of Failure reflects the kind of complicated possibilities within and connected to failure--and its absence. Through text, interviews, audio work, blog projects, video pieces, installation, a public art project, and live performances, the artists frame their relationship with failure on their own terms.
Many heartfelt thanks to everyone involved. All of you do such astoundingly beautiful work. Please be in touch.
-Katrina Lamb, April 2011