Monday, March 17, 2014
on failure or whatnot
In art/aesthetic practice and production we talk about necessary or productive failure. In the business world or the world of inventions (Thomas Edison) we see how many tries they made, how many times they “failed” before they became resounding successes. Is this different for a scientist who does experiments? Is there a disconnect between what many know to be necessary or productive failure and this American eliding of the word itself? We use the word success more often and in combination with more dynamic or positive adjectives (study: resounding vs government or military failure) and we don’t talk about failure. It seems a personal failure to admit failure. People talk about success and leave out the many failures before the success (or necessary to the success) and the rest of us feel inadequate or stupid because we are not similarly successful. Or we think when we do something we will be successful because that’s how it works, having missed the necessary parts of the narrative about the relevance of failure. And then we are not prepared for the inevitable failure. And then we take this failure personally and we judge ourselves and maybe we judge each other as if failing makes us less, instead of making us stronger and better equipped for the next round in which we will know more, have more experience, and better negotiate whatever terms are before us. In some way it would be useful to eliminate the terminology altogether, or change the use of the words failure and success. Our attachment to the ways these words ascribe personal value and judgment, and vulnerability and feelings of inadequacy are not useful or productive. Certainly it is true that many people “fail” and are thereby motivated to strive for more or better or get up and do it again knowing more in order to eventually “succeed.” But why not call this process something else. Like process, or working toward or working through, or production… or something that is language that shows more than tells. Failure is a noun and a judgment. I experienced failure. I am a failure. I could instead say I am working toward, working through; I am producing, I am productive, I am in production; I am interested in process, process is important to production, process is as or more important than the product.