Thursday, 21 July 2011

Jenny Core - "The work is an impermanent fixture, failing its artistic purpose of being seen."

Jenny Core - Phantom Space Muncher - Tracing Paper

The specific piece of work that was a failure was Phantom Space Muncher on tracing paper. Phantom Space Muncher (tracing paper edition) explores the concept of evacuating space, transforming it into nothingness. The drawing was pieced together in a collaged fashion, creating forms from observed objects, which are concealed beneath condensed layers. The work is a response to the physical element of 'space', including a time based experience. Using natural sunlight, the experience of the drawing alters at different times of the day. Using sunlight, emphasised my practice on play and chance, and involving the external elements (weather etc.), to control the experience of the piece.

As the light cascades through the work, it reveals each individual layer/drawing, deconstructing the work visually, and then the piece reassembles when the light fades.

The failure of my 'phantom' object was experienced in its medium and is purpose. The work, which was sealed together, crumbled within the heat of the light and the tracing paper became brittle and fragile. What makes the work, through this element of 'time', destroys the work through time. The work is an impermanent fixture, failing its artistic purpose of being seen.

Jenny's Website

Monday, 11 July 2011

Spike Dennis - "...ultimately they fail to excite me."

Spike Dennis - Untitled 1, 2 and 3 - Mixed Media

These works are early creations as part of a body of work that I have been developing. They are constructed from combinations of soft textiles with heavier materials such as plaster and clay.

Image 1 depicts a phallic looking object that never evolved any further. I ran out of plaster before I’d finished filling the fabric casing. By the time I’d come back to it the plaster had already set. This piece never led to further work.

Image 2 was retrieved from the bin after being cut of the top of a larger object. The panels of fabric from which it is constructed were cut too small and so it caused the two way stretch fabric to which it was attached to distort and pulled on the stitches that held in place. The ‘finished’ artwork has now been fitted with an appropriately sized replacement.

Image 3 was a test piece for a new body of work. In this instance the reasons by which I have judged the work to have failed are much more subjective. I felt that the two tone synthetic fur wasn’t effective as it is too ‘unreal’, and the faux snakeskin material did not have enough stretch in it to achieve the shape that I hoped to achieve. The lack of give in this material and the thin plastic coating that is used to create the snakeskin effect prevented me from achieving the bulbous form that I was endeavouring to create.

I consider all of these works to be failures because none of them satisfied the measures by which I judge my work a success. I find them all to be deficient with regard to their form and ultimately they fail to excite me.

Spike's Website

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Zina Al-Shukri - "Maybe I failed to captivate them..."

 Zina Al-Shukri - Four Portraits - Gouache and Charcoal on Paper

Usually, after about an hour of someone sitting, with me painting and us talking, I am able to take a deeper look into the interior of a person to develop what I think is a successful portrait.

But not these women, they just wouldn't let me in. It was as if they were caricatures of themselves. They absolutely where not able to let go of getting looked at. They were constantly readjusting their hair, make-up, clothes, posture or anything that is superficial to a person. Maybe they couldn’t handle seeing their own image unfold before their eyes or knowing that this picture I was painting of them would be forever or until the paper falls apart.

But, then again, maybe I was the one who couldn't tap into their inner scope. Maybe I failed to captivate them in a way where they would want to give me more of themselves. Maybe they had nothing to give.

Zina's Website

Monday, 6 June 2011

Diana Ali - "...the work had to fail to become alternative and stronger."

 Diana Ali - Global Dialogues - 2010

Editor's Note

This story in this post is slightly different from the ones preceding it. Due to the temporal nature of Diana Ali's artwork, failure and disappointment were engaged with within the process of making. Neither of these contingencies were planned for and Diana's piece - Global Dialogues - was initially jeopardized and then rejuvenated by them. That is to say, failure became a kind of voice in the work, as well as Diana's and her interlocutors.

Artist's Statement

The works I produce involve global participants and their responses. To simply state the format; I ask volunteers around the world to put up advertisements in public places on which are simple instructions for the public to respond to. The work can only evolve through the reliance of failure but because of this the projects are conceived and put away with insatiable closure.

One particular project which progressed through the failure of the original instructions was ‘Distant Dialogues’

An advertisement was put up in public places around the world asking passers-by to have a correspondence with me for one year. If they should wish to do this, to write a letter to the stated P.O Box address.

My original expectations failed me from the beginning. Instead of receiving personal letters from ‘real’ people, I began to receive masses of junk mail from various companies ranging to selling lawn mowers to being invited to explore Alaskan bear camps.

However, the failure became a success. Although I had failed in my expectations I made sure I did not fail in following my own rules. I went ahead and wrote back to these ‘junkies’ in as personal way as originally planned. The fact that ‘real’ people did not answer my advertisement made failure a critical strategy for the work to exist. Effectively the work had to fail to become alternative and stronger.

A brief email conversation between Bryan Eccleshall and Diana Ali

When you initiated Global Dialogues, did you doubt that people would respond?

I'd worked with a similar process before so I was quite confident that I might get a cluster of people responding. Initially I asked for participants via email which was a reliable strategy for me but what I had doubt with was the actual A5 paper advert gaining interest. Of course there was manipulation and predictability of where the 'general public' would hang around long enough to notice the advert.
Was this, then, a faith in people?
In a romantic and naive manner I did, particularly as a fantasy of having anonymous relationships with people from afar! I imagined people would daydream waiting for a bus or in a post office queue for example and would notice the work. In retrospect, this seems really cliched and serendipitous. I went so far as to thinking that one day I could meet my match - I treated it like a 'lost cat' poster or a lonely hearts advert.

Only by pushing against the failure inherent in the responses - corporate marketing especially -  could this piece proceed. How did that feel? Did you ever think of abandoning the piece?

Initially I was slightly baffled probably because I was expecting a romantic side and a two way correspondence which would in turn become a sense of self declaration to whoever I was writing to. But as the junk mail came in, the idea of being 'nice' completely went out the window and the approach turned into being mischievous or trickstery; I almost wanted to take the piss out of myself and the whole project. I'm glad it turned out this way, the project became much more exciting than I thought it would so no, I didn't think of abandoning the piece. It was much more cleansing to treat the corporate marketing companies as a trajectory of my personal feelings meaning that I could become a different fictional character responding to them; they felt as fictitious as my responses. 

The piece could be read as a kind of engaged stand off between optimism and cynicism. In that you continue to engage in dialogue with faceless entities who only see you as someone to whom they can promote. Does the absurdity or naiveté become a strategy for leap frogging disappointment?

I like to think that I had the last laugh as arrogant as it might seem! I'd definitely say that absurdity with a blend of humour did leap frog disappointment but not so much naivete. Naivete was dealt with as soon as the first pile of junk mail came through although it was more of a strategy to evolve the project into something more exciting and unpredictable.

How do the individuals who responded - the 'proper' targets fit into your conception of the piece? Does their existence add or detract from what you call the one-sided correspondence?

That did cause a tension in the project, I felt unfaithful to the 'proper' targets. I continued to have a correspondence with them but like the absurd fictional responses to the junk mail companies, these responses became similar. I suppose I failed with them or they with me. Their existence provided more of a parallel 'what if' perspective and the correspondence with the 'real' participants was seen as a touch of reality as they became quite confessional and lonely so the initial perception of the lonely hearts advert was answered.

Di's Website

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Line Sandvad Mengers - " far I have failed in finding the right concept."

Line Sandvad Mengers - Untitled (Liva &) - Digital Photographs

The project consists of five photographs of a child and an adult.
In each photograph a new adult is dressed in the same/similar clothes as the child. The portrayed people are my daughter, Liva with other family members. Both are wearing their own clothes picked out for the occasion. I wanted the series to continue with more pictures of friends and relatives, but since I have never found the right model all I have is a failed project with 5 photographs from 2007.
At one point I wanted to make a calendar with the photographs, another idea was to make posters. A lot of forms have been considered, but so far I have failed in finding the right concept. I still feel the idea has potential, the subjects in question interest me and I like the photographs.

This is an example of the idea not being sufficient. To me the idea, media and presentation are equally essential. Even though I like the idea the project is a complete failure to me; something about the photographs is so wrong. They can easily be conceived as cute and the aesthetics are more family album than contemporary art.

Line’s Website

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Phill Hopkins - "It didn’t do what I thought it would, so it failed."

 Phill Hopkins - Untitled (Dropping the House)

It was going to be a piece called ‘Untitled (Dropping the House)’. I had this idea that if I made a very strong house, with lots of glue and nails, and then dropped it out of the window, it would just bounce – like a bouncing bomb. My wife dropped it from the bathroom window, as it was the only window that the house would fit through. She did the first drop and it bounced. She dropped it for a second time and it broke. It didn’t do what I thought it would, so it failed.

After this failure I’ve gone on to make things and then break them on purpose.

Phill's website

Friday, 29 April 2011

Megan Hoyle - "...the work cannot be complete"

Megan Hoyle - Installation Under Sink - Canvas, Lukas IV Oil Medium

'Installation Under Sink' is from a series of works predominantly investigating the drying behaviour of oil medium. Canvas strands in various configurations are poured with medium, after repeated pouring the medium begins to lengthen the canvas threads in the way stalactites are formed, by building up beyond the thread. With works such as 'Installation Under Sink' I am playing with the formation of the strands. Could the ‘painting’ have formed through the day to day use of the sink? Is it in flux and still dripping? I want the viewer to become drawn forward to see what is happening, provoking a sense of discovery in how the work has formed.

The intriguing fact about this piece is it is almost invisible and goes completely unnoticed. Those using or walking past the sink certainly aren’t looking for a work underneath it. The understated colour and thickness of the work means it is not easily seen, even by those looking for it.

'Installation Under Sink' is both a failure and a success. The work has many of the elements I wanted in it, if only it was noticed. It is in plain view; under a well used sink in a corridor but is never seen. On the one hand I find this idea very exciting, it is a secret work, only seen by those who know it is there. On the other hand, if a tree falls in the woods.... if an artwork is not seen is it a work? I’m not sure it is. 'Installation Under Sink' was made to be noticed, it was placed in that location for a viewer to question its formation. This questioning is not happening therefore the work cannot be complete. It has failed.

Megan's Blog

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Lionel Playford - " unforgivable failure."

 Lionel Playford - Titanics 1 and 2 - Card, Bostik and Other Materials

As an obsessed teenager in the mid 1970's I made two different models of the Titanic. Both were built from scratch out of card and Bostik glue based on minute research of photos and plans I found. (The skills I learned from this turned out to be quite useful as a professional shipbuilder in the 1980's). The small, recently damaged, model (top) is extremely detailed - I need glasses now to see it and I no longer have the dexterity to make anything so fine (though it's pleasingly rough, too). The large one is more accurate but a bit twisted and lumpy in places - certainly falling short of the aesthetic standards I set when making it and therefore an unforgivable failure.

I showed the larger model to a primary school class yesterday and now the head teacher is keen to get the children apprenticed to create an even bigger failure (about 8m long), using corrugated card and anything else she can get for free. I think the children were less than impressed despite the great amount of effort I put into drawing and making it all those years ago. In fact, some of them were much more interested in the superficially 'perfect' painted plastic model I brought in.

Many people in Belfast felt until quite recently that the Titanic was a huge failure on the part of the workers.

Lionel Playford's Website

Monday, 4 April 2011

Martyn Cross - "My vandalism was vandalised."

Martyn Cross - Black Flag 197 - Knitting Pattern and Biro

The piece is called 'Black Flag 197' and was originally made for the 'Black Flag Series' - a group of works made using found knitting patterns and a biro. The flags are viewed as relics of an age that has never existed; utopia viewed in a black hole.

This piece failed simply because the degraded surface of the antique knitting pattern kept lifting up leaving white marks. My vandalism was vandalised.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Mirko Tzotschew - "I thought it still had potential. however, I did not get it to meet the standards."

Mirko Tzotschew - CPF927.1 - Digital Photograph

The story is very simple:

I went out to take yet another picture for my t-Scape Series and when I got back I discovered that somehow my camera had failed to take the pictures right. It took the first 30-40 pictures with the right exposure, but then failed to do so for the rest. Even though there were fixed exposure settings and not much change in the light. I worked on the pictures because I thought it still had potential. However, I did not get it to meet the standards. Well, here it is.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Lesley Guy - "The drawing lost its way"

Lesley Guy - Claude Levi-Strauss - 37cm x 29cm - Ink on Paper

The recent project Obituaries came from an attempt to produce art in a more playful way using found, and random images. I see drawing as a tool for thinking and exploring; I enjoy solving problems of surface, picture plane, illusion and form. However, my original concern was with exploring feelings of loss by collecting, and archiving the obituary pages from the newspaper. I was fascinated with the way that those who were recently deceased had become transformed into images of paper and ink, their lives reduced to a few paragraphs. The project was compulsive but the strategy gradually evolved into exploring the surface of the images, newsprint has a short life, the paper quickly yellows and the ink eventually fades, this is liberating.

There are over 100 drawings in the archive and there are as many different categories into which they can be sorted and displayed. The personal histories of the people depicted have some meaning, but this is often superficial, focusing only on the profession, age or gender of the deceased. Their image is the subject rather than their biography. My own concerns of loss, form, illusion, material or aesthetic problem solving dictate the ways these works come together.

In the case of Levi-Strauss, I was unable to see past the man. Because of my interest in anthropology I got a bit caught up in the idea that this image was important and that it had to work. Approaching the image with this kind of tension broke the spell, so to speak. The drawing lost its way, I tried to recover by using methods that had worked in the past which compounded the failure. Certain elements, such as the hand on the cane, do work for me, but overall it is clumsy and safe.

Lesley Guy's Website

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Dara Alter - "There is no focus and it is so busy"

Dara Alter - Places of Origin - 101cm x 76cm - Acrylic

Places of Origin was painted from memory and imagination. I was hoping to create an engaging piece that brought the imagery of 'the wall' to interact with land mass and passages of a built urban landscape. Instead of a cohesive work, I found myself with a cartoony divisive image separated into different quadrants. It seems like there are at least three separate works on one canvas. There is no focus and it is so busy that it makes me uneasy to look at for more than a few seconds.

Recognizing the problem areas in this work has had a positive impact on work that came later. It made me really aware of considering a painting's unity and overall strength during all parts of the painting process. In this painting's case, I attacked the painting with my idea, and didn't diverge from that plan even though it wasn't working. Now I've learned to remove myself from my plans where I may follow them to some extent, but I realize the necessity of going where the painting takes you.

People agree with me when I point the issues out to them. However, some people actually like this painting.

Dara Alter's Website

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Call For Submissions

Failure is immediately, and publicly, apparent for sportsmen and women, whereas artistic failures tend to be private. Artists typically present only works of which they are - or at least were - proud.

Do you have any work that you consider a failure? Perhaps fatally flawed, ill-conceived or unsuccessful? Did a line of enquiry peter out, leaving abandoned artefacts and/or preparatory work?

We’re putting together a group show that will bring works together that, despite failing, say something about the process of making art or show ways in which failure could be considered a critical strategy, especially within a culture that values success so highly. Initially we are trying to create an online archive of work in order to start a discussion about failure within art practice. We plan to create an exhibition that will tour UK venues in 2011/2012.

If you think you have a piece of work with a story to tell, please email to
    •    Up to four images (72dpi and no bigger than 600 x 600 pixels)
    •    A short statement of up to 300 words about the work depicted. Include a title, if any, and please make clear why you consider it a failure.
    •    Make it clear if you want the work to remain anonymous

We'll get back to you about including it on a website or this blog and take it from there.

A few other things:
    •    Feel free to circulate this statement/call-out within your own networks
    •    Don't send anything other than what is described above
    •    Submission does not guarantee inclusion either online or in the exhibition
    •    It may take us some time to get back to you, so please be patient
    •    We will be seeking funding for the exhibition, but as yet we have no money, hence the initial call-out being via email
    •    We will create a mailing list dedicated to this project. If you would rather not go on this please let us know.