Failure is Function by Bruno Listopad


Text for the ArtEZ publication: Inventing Futures

Requested to contribute to this publication with an entry on failure, I have been hunting for diverse processes to accomplish it which, surprisingly, all appeared ineffective. Throughout the elaboration of a topic I considered rather familiar at first, I have been incessantly mending fissures and  hesitations. Occasionally, I wished that by failing to accomplish writing about this topic, I would at least succeed in becoming exemplary in this regard. Yet, failing to write is not identical to writing about failure.

If each attempt of writing this excerpt was perceived as failure, it was due to the conventional awareness of its counterpart, success. Unknowingly, in a manner to overcome such binarism, I decided to refrain from providing a ‘new’ insight on the topic and instead write to ‘exorcise’ the anxiety that this precipitated upon me. Reflecting further, I realized that this process is intrinsic to most creative production, surfacing in the interstitial space between the author’s intention and realization. It is precisely within this unintended gap that one of creations most significant potential lays: the ability to expand the object of creation through an associative field of new relations when this is encountered by the other.

Regarding the use of ‘failure’ as strategy, I can only justify it by placing this along the lineage of last century performing artists: the ones infatuated by the real, striving to overcome the split between art and life by creating work beyond representation, or able to denounce its manipulative power. Some of these artists aimed at achieving the former, by shortening the gap between sign and signified, through intensifying the circulation of affect by virtue of an ecstatic physical presence, and the latter, by utilizing techniques of alienation and the breaking of the 4th wall.

Sharing a similar anxiety, yet aware that to a certain extent representation is inevitable, since it takes place on the beholders gaze, I decided to use choreography to articulate my conflicted relationship to the topic.

I attempted this by de-skilling, inspired in the mishaps and emendations of amateur theatre. Features concealed by the professional theatre, which often uncritically adopts the slickness of commodity culture.

These characteristics were either incorporated, viscerally and affectively, subverting the functionality of the script, or more cerebrally, dismantling and hiccupping the flow of the theatre apparatus.

Another approach employed included extending the magnitude of the work, so this could enter in articulation with the multiple ‘heres’ of the 'process-as-event’. This was achieved by reassembling disjointedly diverse ‘actual’ and ‘virtual’ materials produced: crisscrossing perspectives, disagreements, produced by subjects or objects. Altogether, the rehearsal processes ceased to be about translation and application of a concept, and, instead turned into the quasi-dysfunctional process of its own immanent gestation.

Nevertheless, failure, as a procedure to problematize representation and subvert the society of the spectacle[1], contains the seed of its own undoing. By practicing failure, one is re-skilling into a new area of expertise, progressively converting it to another category of self-evident virtuosity. When failure is skilfully mastered, its disruptive capacity expires.

Bruno Listopad 


[1]  Guy Debord, The Society of the Spectacle Originally published in France as La société du spectacle in 1967 by Buchet-Chastel.

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