17 May 2006

Failure is Beautiful

Edward Rothstein wrote a great review of Hentry Petroski's Success Through Failure: The Paradox of Design for Monday's Times. Failure teaches more than success, and we already knew that. Artists, particularly, have the luxury of failing more than engineers do, and can make a whole career out of leveraging failure. All Hail The Most Beautiful Failures!

I strongly suggest going to see Streb at a Slam Show in Williamsburg, where things haven't quite jelled and you can watch the process of attempting to defy gravity. Elizabeth Streb is the Queen Supreme of leveraging failure to achieve the impossible!

When Matthew Barney is really good as a sculptor, he is barely containing a gigantic failure!

Robert Irwin's bar is set so high that he fails all the time, and those failures are beautiful because Irwin's task is so outsized, so impossible. The fact that it's never exactly what he wants gives his work a quiet, aching despair.

That perfect impossibility and constant failure of high expectations goes double for James Lee Byars. I think his work is impossible to understand except in terms of disappointment that it's still here, that it didn't pop into some perfect dimension.

Cai Guo Qiang fails all the time because he's brave enough to work with gunpowder, which is finicky and fickle. Spectacular loss of control!


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