Laura Gascoigne: It’s Not The Winning, It’s The Making Art – July 2017

Last month a new sort of museum opened in Sweden. The brainchild of psychologist Dr Samuel West, the Museum of Failure in Helsinborg is an unnatural history museum of commercial

fossils, a repository of innovative products that flopped. “The majority of all innovation projects fail,” its website announces cheerfully, before expressing the hope that showcasing “interesting innovation failures” /* 9-970x90 */ will “provide visitors with a fascinating

don’t get to

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be the artist of the deal without a modicum google_ad_width = 970; of psychological acuity. In the case of the other /* xin2 */ sort of

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artist //--> – the artist of the non-deal, if you like – a ‘lot of

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people’ means almost everyone.

What is wrong with artists? Or, looked at another way, google_ad_height = 90; what is right with them? Unlike the general population of downtrodden drudges who cling mindlessly to a belief in the survival of the fittest, artists are highly adaptable creatures. Their work may be headed for the landfill fossil layer but they persist in looking on the bright side of extinction. It’s an attitude that, after the last financial crash,

prompted a number of artist-led projects pointing //--> out the plus side of failure.
Kettle’s Yard led the way in June 2009 with a one-day symposium ‘On not knowing: how artists think’, which examined “how artists formulate

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strategies of
not knowing and use the states of ignorance, doubt, block and failure within their decision-making process.” For
those whose decision-making back-up systems also failed, in 2010 the South London Gallery proposed a

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final solution of dumping their work in Michael Landy’s Art Bin and becoming part of “a monument to creative failure” to be buried, with due ceremony, in

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a landfill site.

This was too negative for Manchester’s Cornerhouse, which came up with a more positive offer. Their 2010 exhibition Unrealised Potential, curated by the interestingly-named Mike Chavez-Dawson, presented a selection of artists’ unfulfilled proposals to gallery visitors and offered the rights to their realisation for sale. Whether any business resulted is unclear. Some of the ideas were certainly

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appealing, though logistically challenging. The one I liked best was Simon google_ad_client = "ca-pub-3967079123942817"; Paterson’s International Heroes, a
foreign exchange programme for equestrian statues whereby town squares could swap their
resident stiffs on horseback for stiffs on horseback from other town squares – a
farsighted if impracticable idea that, post-Brexit, would have added greatly to the gaiety of nations while proving that Britain always remains open to stiffs. Slightly more workable was Harry Hill’s proposal, in a follow-up exhibition at
Cornerhouse in 2011, ‘To recreate George Cruikshank’s The Worship of

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Bacchus using known alcoholics’, though it would have called for greater organisational part of artistic genius consists in knowing how to capitalise on it. If it hadn’t been for Giacometti’s endless admissions of failure the public would never have taken him to

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their hearts. It’s not true that everybody loves a winner. It google_ad_slot = "7160667483"; may seem like that while the champagne flows, //--> but the truth (sorry Trump) is that losers are usually more likeable in their lifetimes
and always more likeable after their deaths. If Van Gogh had sold more than one painting in his lifetime, would his personality hold the same appeal for posterity? In life he was smelly, argumentative, wonky and drunken, the very definition of a loser who didn’t like to win and deep inside didn’t want to. In death

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his failure made him a huge success.

Before Brexit turns the Channel into a cultural chasm, we British losers could learn from our continental brethren who understand how to do failure in style. Take the French artist Jules Berthier, who elevated failure to the ‘art of fiasco’ with his 2007 nautical

installation Love-love in which he sailed a broken yacht with a wonky keel at a permanently sinking google_ad_client = "ca-pub-3967079123942817"; angle of 45 degrees along the coast of Normandy. Bravo, Jules! With a post-Brexit recession in the offing src="//pagead2.googlesyndication.com/pagead/show_ads.js"> and the lowest productivity figures of any leading western src="//pagead2.googlesyndication.com/pagead/show_ads.js"> economy, we can look forward to a resurgence of the art of
failure. Sod the productive strivers, hail the creative skivers! It’s not the winning, it’s the making art.

Laura Gascoigne
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