Seminar 9. Notions of Creative Failure – Chris Freemantle 
Description 
Elizabeth Reeder – Audio Recording – Separate on Moodle.  
Gemma Kearney – Business School – Failure in Entrepreneurship – Paper written with Chris. 
Creative Failure is closely linked with mental health. Practice can be part of your processing of an experience, but if it is not sufficient, it is not a substitute for counselling if there are mental health issues. Boundary between practice and professional health. 
Why failure is interesting and useful? Failure is fundamentally about refining judgement. In art the judgement is the work.  
Personal judgement as the artist, is a separate and different form of judgement from that of the audience and the critics.  
Different ways of looking at failure: 
Business definition - Failure is ‘expectation’ not meeting ‘outcome’. 
Are the expectations reasonable in the first place?  
Who’s expectation? External validation? Internal judgement? 
Is the intention achievable?  
Is it a plan? Can you describe steps? Is it a desire? 
Were there unforeseen factors? 
What is an unforeseen factor? 
Quite likely to miss the ‘art’, either what impacts on the audience, or is significant to you as the artist. 
Evaluation process has different layers to it. Can deliver the expected outcome, and still fail, or reversely can have poor project management but still succeed.  
Positivist View – Failure is a process of eliminating errors.  
Perfection is possible, if you can only remove all the errors, underpins a lot of science.  
VUCA, a concept popular amongst policy makers: Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous. It is not possibly to continuously remove errors to achieve perfection. 
Counter to Positivist view is Post-Colonial Critique. Can't compare failure in this manner – it is insane to do so.  
The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable by Amitav Ghosh (can't find online copy, will look to buy). 
Ross SInclair – Scottish Identity – “We Love...” 
Important point in treating failure as a part of identity. Something that should be avoided. It is rooted in modernism. 
Interesting essays on MIT documents on contemporary art – writers using artists as a study of failure in avant-garde writing. Essays on Moodle. Stories of how failure has become mythologised into modernism. 
David Hockney ‘Fredda brining Ann and me a cup of tea’ 1983, binding failure back into the artwork. 
Elizabeth Reader Recording 48:05. - ‘exuberant and creative failure as we make’. 
To both ground and question notions of failure.  
Jeremy Deller, failing to fit the spec for the design, but succeeding at the same place. 
Our creative process – learned skills, skills which are acquired, honed and challenged, in making that become transformed into instinct – knowledge we learn and apply again and again to become muscle memory – through practice.  
We must actively create the conditions for chance and accident within our processes and support the acceptance of creative failure, and the awareness of failure as a place of learning. This is part of creative research and critical processes.  
Failure can help define what we don’t know and what doesn’t work, as well as taking us into wildly different directions in terms of the questions we ask, the approaches we take, the research we do and the practices we adopt. 
Need good people around us if we are to survive our failures. 
Point is to be optimistic, in terms of how we talk about failure, and the fact we take it as a point of learning.  
What does failure feel and look like? A recent failure, how did it make me feel? What did I think? How long did the feeling last? Did it change me? How did it change my thinking? Is it a good/bad thing? 
Failure can be devastating – particularly if it goes on for a prolonged time. However, failure in creative practice can be made easier, by the understanding that our practice is full of ambiguity, tension, error and chance. 
Even though our imagination is infinite it is also specific to each project at hand, which is an energising paradox of making. 
The process of making may be nonlinear – a back and forth between practice, research and reflection. There is an ongoing as well as final self-reflexivity on the part of the maker, and there are 100,000’s of failures within this process. Again, although the shape and knowledge of the final product may look different, this process of back and forward mirrors the process of researching. Where the final product is intergraded and edited with the reflective and critical eye, to create a final outcome.  

Happy to raise a question, without a method and then set about answering it. In art we often set out to do something we don’t know how to do. We can adapt a methodology, but we can set out to ask questions we don’t know the answers to. 
The problem is the way that failure moves between scales, i.e. if I fail this assessment, does that mean I will fail the course, and does that mean I am a failure?  
Failing a piece of coursework becomes total failure as a human being, and the speed in slipping from one to the other, forces us to be adverse to failing a piece of coursework, to do something different, to be willing to take the risk, to open up to the possibility of failing. This is more of an issue in education than it is in ‘real’ life. 
David Haley – Binary of Success and Failure: 
The opposite of success may not be failure, but desire? 
The opposite of failure may not be success, but kindness? 
The opposite of achievement may not be failure, but contentment? 
The opposite of success may not be failure, but indeterminacy? 
The opposite of success may not be failure, but learning? 

Personal Reflection 
I found that this seminar, in my mind was extremely insightful. I do feel that I have often been more concerned regarding failure of work and to make grades than often I am over pushing to test my limits and try something new. This I feel is partly due to my work, and training at work. As the NHS is so risk adverse, and process driven, it is about constant reading and re-reading of processes, and following guidelines to ensure consistency and patient safety. That due to my length of service, it has had a tendency to spill over into other areas of my life. Through this I feel certainly that my earlier studies in college and the BA Commercial Photography course, that I was working within a set structure. That I would research and read all the technical processes for the methods of work that I wanted to pursue, then apply this to the subject matter that I was looking to capture. This process driven way of working meant that I had a higher level of ‘success’ with my outcomes, albeit the type of success was in achieving technically proficient images, rather than conceptually driven. 
I feel that there was a fundamental shift in this, when towards the end of the BA, I started experimenting in pinhole photography. This removed a lot of the technical precision that I was used to working in and added an opportunity for failure. I then expanded upon this with the camera-less techniques within the Communication Design course, which allowed me to ask questions of which I did not know the answer, and adopt a trial and error approach to working, which along with the pinhole project in the 3rd year have been my two most enjoyable projects to date. Going forward this is what has inspired me to produce work with my current project.  
I feel the freedom that this entails, gives me a more creative or imaginative way of working, with results that may not necessarily be envisioned at the start of the project, however there is as Chris notes within the seminar restraints or conflictions with this way of working. Due to the deadlines within courses, there is a concern that sometimes the time is not there to fail. I took on the part time MA to try to build in more of this opportunity, however I still feel that I am concerned with the expositions that I need something to put up on the wall, and there is a pride with the work I wish to display, that I want to have it look as good as possible with the rest of the display. Due to this, there is a shackling to resorting back to tried and tested means, which stifles creativity. 
This is something that I will have to bear in mind moving forward, that I need to experiment, regardless of what the resulting imagery is, that I will be willing to display it. I think that with this my understanding of failure and success may be challenged, as I feel that pride is pushing me towards a smaller success, rather than risking failure for the potential of moving towards an ultimately greater outcome that in turn may be success or failure. 

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