Recently I've been thinking about failure. I've written about it and used it as the basis for a short residency in Liverpool in November of last year.

I just came back from Retreat, which is a residential workshop that took place in Wales. 19 people - including artists, writers, dancers, choreographers and curators - stayed in a huge house for a week.We ate together, went on walks, drank a lot of wine and gave presentations.

My presentation was called Embarcing Failure (sic). It described three failures, one of which was the story of the problems surrounding the installation of a piece of public art by Anthony Mccall called Column. Because my presentation was quite early in the week, the topic of failure came up again and again in group discussions.

Matthew Breen did a presentation about his parents' hobby (musical theatre, if you're wondering) and whilst trying to define amateurism, Cian Donnelly said a perceptive thing. I'm paraphrasing here, but he said something like,

"There's no difference between what we do (as professional artists) and what they (amateur dramatists) do. The reason we're all sitting around trying to find a difference is because we're scared we're inadequate."

I'm not sure it's the only reason that we were trying to find a difference between professionals and amateurs, but I'm very sure that I'm scared that I'm inadequate.


All this talk of failure comes with a sticky residue you can't get off your hands. People don't like to be associated with it. Dealing with failure whilst you try to succeed is hard work. It's like how depressed people are often really annoying and to be nice to them takes way more effort than it takes to be nice to a person who isn't depressed. It doesn't matter if it's not their fault.

Failure's the same. If you live in London and you're trying to make a life out of art or music or whatever, then you haven't really got time for people who aren't succeeding at what they do. This sounds harsher than it is, but it is harsh.

At the same time, I guess everyone has things that have failed in their life, and most failure comes about through a mixture of things. But inadequacy is the ultimate failure - failure that comes about through not being good enough.

Own up to failure and people will take a step back. Own up to the possibility of inadequacy and people will run a mile.


On the train home I was thinking about an application I'm writing for The Lombard Method's Summer Residency. I was wondering whether I might be able to do an exhibition about or of or through inadequacy. At the same time I was thinking about objects; how little time I now spend making them and how I suddenly yearned to make them.

The two things are connected.

Human neuro-psychology creates the conditions for its own feelings of incompleteness - the contradiction of yearning to know things as they truly are and yet being a thinking thing who can never truly know anything but their own thoughts.

My art practice is almost completely de-materialised. I mostly work with writing and performance. When I make films I use pre-existing footage. When I work as part of the ARKA group, my focus is the writing and the sound, whilst Ben creates all the imagery or plans the installations.

I want to make objects that negate my fear of inadequacy. I want to re-materialise my art practice for reasons which are psychologically suspect and socially embarrassing. Can this be done 'well'? Is self-awareness enough to create a rigorous approach to investigating inadequacy? What might that investigation look like? What are the objects created as part of that inquiry?