Georgia Gendall: on failing

The precarious position of being an artist means that we are constantly at a high risk of ‘Artfails’.

Artfails are a bit like Epic fails. Mainly because the YouTube fad of the ‘Epic fail’ has devalued the word ‘epic’ to now describe not only great failures but also the most un-monumental slip-ups. The failure of an artwork can shatter your visions, consume and halt your practice and hang heavily on your shoulders. I’m not sure if there is a right and a wrong way to deal with failure – its one of those things that we silently wade through, distracting ourselves at every possible opportunity from the detritus behind us.

All artists work in different ways. I know artists that spend months and months meticulously planning a piece of work. This way of working minimises the risk of artfails but also increases the impact of the fail if and when it hits. I, however, can’t work like this. I’m restless, impatient and born with itchy feet. When I’m not making work I’m not an artist so it’s really important for me to always be making. Often I’ve got my hands in five raw or half -baked art pies, trying to juggle them all can be a challenge but at least it reduces the risk of the dreaded nothingness of no ideas. My fickle attitude towards ideas and making is just a way to safeguard my mind, however it does expose me to a high risk of artfails.

There is no right or wrong way of working: I think artfails are inevitable in every approach to working – but that doesn’t make the impact of the fail upon on your confidence in your practice any easier. My practice takes on the precarious challenge of interacting with my audience through movement, participation and technology. Sometimes I’m not sure if my failures are flaws in my artistic abilities or just symptoms of being too busy being broke and thus maybe if I was a little less broke with a little more time my work would become the visions that are spewed across my note books.

Coming to terms with our failures: understanding and building on them is the most important thing. To stop awarding our failures with the status of ‘epic’ and persist within our lines of enquiry – sadly it all comes down to be overly positive and learning that every failure makes us stronger and we can’t give up.

Strangely, up until finishing the last paragraph I hadn’t Googled “How to deal with failure”.  But Google does actually offers some very constructive ideas:

“Don’t let it define you make failure a tool failure is good don’t let it become part of your identity talk about it occupy your mind loosing a battle doesn’t mean you have lost the war giving up is the real failure”… etc etc

Sadly, when I fail all these cheesy coping mechanisms seem to slip my mind and failure tends to see me distracting myself from the heartache of my own practice and investing time in projects I feel more comfortable in, like collaborations or research. The backseat I put my practice in every few months does help with the despondency but it doesn’t solve any problems or come to any conclusions to do with failures – I just hope that by the time I face my practice again I have forgotten about my earlier defeat and am ready again to power head first into my own world.

The Lifeboat residency means that we are in the privileged position where we are contained and supported enough to allow failure and to not let it get in the way of further development too much. And I know I bang on about a peer network and I conclude all my articles with a plug of the assemblage of your peers but I do believe it solves all problems (and if it doesn’t solve problems it distracts you from them for a while). Surrounding yourselves in support and allowing the weight of your own practice to be momentarily lifted provides the space for productive escapism.

I expect artfails couldn’t continually trend on YouTube mainly because it is us artists watching people repeatedly injure themselves on the Internet to make our artfails seem less immense.


Similar How to articles

Related opportunities, listings and Artlaw articles

Featured project

Peer Mentoring workshop at the ICA


Z-Crits are informal, fast-paced online crit sessions for artists. Peer Mentoring workshop at the ICA Z-Crit 5 Deadline for Registration: Monday 17 May (12noon) Selected artists contacted: Wednesday 1… Continue Reading Z-Crits

Read more