Amid the global uncertainties of our times, failure has become a central subject of investigation in recent art. Celebrating failed promises and myths of the avant-garde, or setting out to realize seemingly impossible tasks, artists have actively claimed the space of failure to propose a resistant view of the world. Here success is deemed overrated, doubt embraced, experimentation encouraged, and risk considered a viable strategy. The abstract possibilities opened up by failure are further reinforced by the problems of physically realizing artworks—wrestling with ideas, representation, and object-making. By amplifying both theoretical and practical failure, artists have sought new, unexpected ways of opening up endgame situations, ranging from the ideological shadow of the white cube to unfulfilled promises of political emancipation. Between the two subjective poles of success and failure lies a space of potentially productive operations where paradox rules and dogma is refused. This collection of writings, statements, mediations, fictions, polemics, and discussions identifies failure as a core concern in cultural production. Failure identifies moments of thought that have eschewed consensus, choosing to address questions rather than answers.
Artists surveyed include: Bas Jan Ader, Francis Alÿs, John Baldessari, Chris Burden, Phil Collins, Martin Creed, David Critchley, Fischli & Weiss, Ceal Floyer, Isa Genzken, Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, Félix González-Torres, Wade Guyton, International Necronautical Society, Ray Johnson, Mike Kelley, Martin Kippenberger, Michael Krebber, Bruce Nauman, Simon Patterson, Janette Parris, Yvonne Rainer, Robert Rauschenberg, Dieter Roth, Allen Ruppersberg, Roman Signer, Annika Ström, Paul Thek, William Wegman
Writers include: Giorgio Agamben, Samuel Beckett, Daniel Birnbaum, Bazon Brock, Johanna Burton, Emma Cocker, Gilles Deleuze, Russell Ferguson, Ann Goldstein, Jörg Heiser, Jennifer Higgie, Richard Hylton, Jean-Yves Jouannais, Lisa Lee, Stuart Morgan, Hans-Joachim Müller, Karl Popper, Edgar Schmitz, Coosje van Bruggen
Documents of Contemporary Art series
Copublished with Whitechapel Gallery, London
About the Editor
Lisa Le Feuvre is Head of Sculpture Studies at the Henry Moore Institute in Leeds, England.
“...the book does what this kind of project should: it introduces you to unfamiliar ideas, authors, and practices; offers new approaches; and raises new questions. Presumably, it’s intended for people who make or write about art, but you certainly don’t have to be an artist to appreciate new ways of thinking about failure and, not coincidentally, success.”—Publishers Weekly