08 December 2009

On failure and the love of liminal things

I cannot stop reading this lovely passage written by Ann Ellegood and continually interchanging the words art - sculpture - jewellery....

The artists' willingness to allow their work to suggest both a coming together and a falling apart is one of the most important, and distinctive, aspects of the work, resulting in an open quality that refuses to spell out or tie down its meaning. A visible awkwardness on indeterminateness may take on structural manifestations in terms of delicasy, precariousness, and the periodic use of inherently unstable materials, but the failure I am most interesting in here is the one that remains a possibility, as these artists simultaneously embrace and challenge the legacy of what sculpture can and should be. To put something out into the world whose meanings is opaque, value undetermined, and historically position ambiguous is, to put it mildly, risky (especially when the contemporary art world, and particularly the art market, increasingly demands facile interpretive meaning, an easily understood accompanying narrative, and legible and digestible formal qualities). Yet the possibility of failure here is not intended to be heroic. These are the small, daily failures that accompany an ongoing commitment to experimentation and refusal to become complacent.  And the result, it turns out, are not failures at all. These artists genuinely push against the parameters of the traditions of sculpture, taking an active role in parsing through its inherited languages while proposing wholly new languages as yet undefined. Samuel Beckett described this type of commitment to process and change beautifully, ‘Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.’* Despite the fact that the works contain elements that carry associations the views can sin their interpretive teeth into, these sculptures might be best characterized as liminal – somewhere between an object and idea, between matter and consciousness – and this is a radical place to be.

* Samual Beckett. Worstward Ho in Nohow On: Company, Ill Seeen Ill Said, Worstward Ho: Three Novels (New York: Grove Press, 1996; originally published 1984), 87.


Ann Ellegood. The uncertaintiy of objects and ideas: Recent Scultpure. (Washington DC, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, 2006) 15.

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