Failure stays an option

when things fall apart

While working for already some weeks on the project Tracing Back, I have to mention that in this particular development failure became obvious. I will not dwell on it, but try to draw a bit of a bigger picture and analyse what happened. Through my notes it is quite easy to retrieve that process and it seems good to reflect upon.

I started with the found ceramic materials as described in this post. I repeat the so-called back story quickly again. “In 2016, just some weeks after the British referendum took place, me and my family travelled through the North of England and Scotland. Of course, I talked with people – if they were prepared – about the vote to leave the EU. When visiting Allonby in Allerdale Cumbria where 58% voted for Leaving, I felt quite depressed after some conversations. That afternoon when walking on an almost deserted beach, the weather was quite bad too, we found a lot of small ceramics with fine drawings on them. These were apparently thrown into the sea and washed ashore. We collected these pieces and I was always thinking about making a Brexit work with them. A small film is coming soon, but now suddenly these found objects got their appropriation in my bigger tumbling concept.”

Tracing Back (part of videostill)
Tracing Back (videostill)

So, the found ceramic pieces went together with my go-pro camera in a big bucket while I was tumbling the bucket, which was partly filled with water too. It delivered some really fine footage that has been edited to search for accidental traces. I liked the ‘back in the water’ experiment because of its nature & culture mix so much. As the output became a digital video & sound work, I explored making a physical outcome as well. This became the next step in the process.

Given the specific finding place and apparent historical function of the ceramics, my further intention was to make some kind of philosophical connection with the Brexit. These pieces could be an interesting hardware expressing the daily struggles in which parts are trying but not coming together… Next to a sloppy sketch I wrote down and envisioned that I would make a ‘cup of Brexit tea‘: an inside-out cup with disturbed edges made of mixed particles that combines the typical English fine-cup-of-tea-feeling with the chaos concerning the UK getting out of the European Union. That lead to an elaborate investigation in what kind of luting or glue would be feasible. After some time – waiting 24 hours for the hardening process to take place and multiple tests were needed – I found a special glue that could do the trick. Sadly the stuff was not that easy to work with as I got dizzy from the vapour at times. But that did not set me back.

What stopped me then? Well, seeing the work slowly grow, I realised that it was not MY work at all. I felt it was lacking certain important elements that are typical for my practice and I was thinking of smashing the whole thing on the floor. Of course, I would not do that in blind anger but as a happening for a camera, but I do not want the Brexit tea to end like that… with or without backstop!

In essence I realised that it would be a static object, maybe a nice one, but certainly nothing that would be moving (to me).

I noted that these short sentences may sum up my critical art practice:

  • (world in) motion
  • interaction (with people, objects, systems and environments)
  • create philosophical meaning
  • to get a deeper sense of life (and death)

Now I have come up with a new and better concept – I think – but this brings new difficulties. I have to drill with a special glass drill about 200 small holes in the pieces without breaking them. This in order to be able to connect them in a much more dynamic way, allowing also for interaction and its concurring aesthetics. Whether that will fail or be a success, I don’t know yet, but failure stays always an option.