CHRIS FREMANTLE

Daniel Dennett on the Dignity of Being Wrong and Art-Science of Making Fertile Mistakes

Posted in Failure by chrisfremantle on July 5, 2017

“The chief trick to making good mistakes is not to hide them — especially not from yourself. Instead of turning away in denial when you make a mistake, you should become a connoisseur of your own mistakes, turning them over in your mind as if they were works of art, which in a way they are. … The trick is to take advantage of the particular details of the mess you’ve made, so that your next attempt will be informed by it and not just another blind stab in the dark.”
https://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2013/05/29/intuition-pumps-daniel-dennett-on-making-mistakes/

Imagining the Mediterranean

Posted in Failure, Research, Texts, Uncategorized by chrisfremantle on June 4, 2017

This abstract was submitted to the Imagining The Mediterranean Congress scheduled for September. Unfortunately it wasn’t accepted.


Science and Cultural Heritage: Transdisciplinary Practices and Artists

Current socio-political contexts are shaped in increasingly complex ways by environmental issues which in turn are informed on the one hand by natural sciences and on the other by cultural factors. There are considerable challenges in adequately integrating specialist scientific perspectives with those from the humanities: yet policies (particularly for change adaptation and resilience) are likely to be much more successful if they take on more holistic approaches.

The intergovernmental Convention on Wetlands, the Ramsar Convention, established to protect the values and functions of wetlands, addresses this challenge through the Ramsar Culture Network. The Network includes interest groups and specialist experts in thematic areas ranging from indigenous knowledge and spiritual values to agriculture and food, youth, tourism, art and architecture.

This paper will focus on the role of artists (a term which will be explained as embracing contemporary practices that may surprise some readers by the variety of scientific and socio-political roles that are played), highlighting key examples of artists involved in wetland biodiversity and related cultural heritage. Some artists choose to engage with non-arts contexts, including projects with scientists, planners, landowners and local communities.

In the immediate Spanish context, artists have been drawn to record and represent Las Tablas de Daimiel, one of the first Ramsar designated wetlands in Spain. In particular Ignacio de Meco whose paintings document the landscape and form an important record of a changing environment (2010).

Lillian Ball’s GO Doñana (2008) project, part of an on-going series based on the game of Go, was an invited part of the International Bienal of Sevilla. As the audience interacted with the projected Go board, each move activated the video/sound viewpoints of scientists, farmers, environmentalists, landowners, and park guides.

In a wider Mediterranean context the artist, biologist and environmental activist Brandon Ballengée has worked with the Parco Arte Vivente in Turin (2011). His ongoing project Malamp, focusing on mutations in amphibians, is pursued throughscientific enquiry, art installations and “eco-actions” involving varied communities in field work.

Further examples include Liz Nicol’s on-going work in the Venice Lagoon and Shai Zakai’s work Concrete Creek (1999-2002) in Israel as well as Jane Ingram Allen’s ongoing Cheng Long Wetlands International Environmental Art Project.

Some of the strongest impetus for attention to these matters in the Ramsar context has come from initiatives pioneered in the Mediterranean region, and global leadership continues to be provided from this part of the world. The paper will draw out the transdisciplinary characteristics of artists’ practices which address both the cultural and scientific aspects of environmental contexts and policies.

Bibliography

Allen, Jane Ingram. Cheng-Long Wetlands International Environmental Art Project. https://artproject4wetland.wordpress.com/about/

Alvarez-Cobelas, M., Cirujano, S. and Meco, A. ‘The Man and Las Tablas de Daimiel’ in Ecology of Threatened Semi-Arid Wetlands: Long-Term Research in Las Tablas de Daimiel. Dordrecht Heidelberg London New York: Springer. 2010

Cravero, Claudio. Praeter Naturam: Brandon Ballengée. Parco Arte Vivente, Centro D’Arte Contemporanea, Torino. 2011.

Culture and Wetlands: A Ramsar Guidance Document. Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar, 1971) Culture Working Group. Gland. 2008. http://www.ramsar.org/sites/default/files/documents/library/cop10_culture_group_e.pdf accessed 26 April 2017

Zakai, S. Concrete Creek: Artist’s Statement 1999. http://www.shaizakai.com/text.php?NID=256 accessed 30 April 2017

Museum of Failure

Posted in Failure by chrisfremantle on April 24, 2017

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Kentridge opens Johannesburg space for artists to learn by failing

Posted in Failure by chrisfremantle on April 16, 2017

Errata – Brief Interruptions. Futurefarmers at CCVA

Posted in Failure by chrisfremantle on March 21, 2017

“In Paul de Man’s notes on irony he asserts, citing Baudelaire, that falling can enable a duplicate consciousness wherein one observes and laughs at oneself without hierarchies of different subjectivities: one becomes aware of oneself as human and an object in the hands of nature.”  Rebecca Uchill, Errata (2017)

Source: MultiPage PDF File – futurefarmers_final.pdf

Dear Professor: A Chronicle of Absences

Posted in Failure by chrisfremantle on November 28, 2016

Design Research Failures

Posted in Failure, Research by chrisfremantle on October 29, 2016

This project by Soren Rosenbak was developed for the Design Research Society conference 2016 and now has a web site with all the submissions and the opportunity to comment on them. 

http://designresearchfailures.com/

Interesting as part of the Design Research Society’s 50 year anniversary. Humble. Participatory in the right ways – community building and empowering. Causing of reflection. 

Design Research Failure

Posted in Failure, Research by chrisfremantle on August 11, 2016

Failure and Mental Health

Posted in Failure by chrisfremantle on August 2, 2016

We were challenged in the q&a after our presentation on the Art(s) of Failure at the Scottish Graduate School for the Arts and Humanities Summer School on the question of mental health.

There is no smart relationship between working with failure and mental health issues.  Anyone saying to someone depressed or with other mental health challenges that they need to learn to ‘work with failure’ is wrong.  Using failure as part of a creative process requires a degree of mental strength and resilience.  It just does.  Only the person knows what they can do.  All the serious advice on mental health and depression says to support the individual, not give them any sort of ‘get over it’.

If you know someone with mental health issues then please don’t advise them to find ways to use their failures.  Rather support them appropriately.  If you are not sure, here are a couple of links.

Scottish Association for Mental Health

Advice for friends and family from MIND

 

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CV of failures: Princeton professor publishes resume of his career lows | Education | The Guardian

Posted in Failure by chrisfremantle on April 30, 2016

Elizabeth Reeder and I are going to be talking about failure at the Scottish Graduate School for the Arts and Humanities in June and the reversal that this achieves is exactly the point. Like Hockney including an apology letter from a photolab in a collage or Deller exhibiting his failed design for the cover of the Tube map, failures are materials for new things. http://www.theguardian.com/education/2016/apr/30/cv-of-failures-princeton-professor-publishes-resume-of-his-career-lows?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

NEA Magazine: The Art of Failure: The Importance of Risk and Experimentation

Posted in Failure by chrisfremantle on March 13, 2016

Accidents will happen

Posted in Failure by chrisfremantle on December 29, 2015

More on failure, this time in relation to innovation. Article proposes three conditions:
1. Time and space for experimentation (always an issue eroded by ‘good’ project management, the hurry to evaluate, modularisation, time and motion studies, etc);
2. Knowledge ‘push’ is valuable too, and sometimes relevance becomes apparent later (‘pull’ is very popular but people need to know what’s possible in order to pull);
3. Connectivity – tell people about failures (links to ‘open’ methods but also to publishing failure, critical reflection not just KE, etc).
http://ispim.org/#mg_ld_3151

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Edward Snowden meets Arundhati Roy and John Cusack: ‘He was small and lithe, like a house cat’ | Life and style | The Guardian

Posted in Failure by chrisfremantle on November 29, 2015

Failure h3333333k

Posted in Failure by chrisfremantle on October 10, 2015
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Yes, Everyone Can Be Stupid for a Minute – NYTimes.com

Posted in Failure, Texts by chrisfremantle on June 7, 2015

This Corner Office interview with a silicon valley tech CEO has stayed with me for a long time. Basically he reckons everyone says something stupid in a meeting occasionally and this guy has a rule that you can say – That thing I just said was stupid. Let’s move on. Otherwise politics kicks in, people defend their positions, etc.  He’s also good on teams.  Worth having a look at some of the other Corner Office interviews too.
http://mobile.nytimes.com/2011/05/08/business/08corner.html?referrer=

On the importance of being negative | Science | The Guardian

Posted in Failure by chrisfremantle on March 8, 2015

I don’t understand the detail of the science, but as highlighted in this piece, the increased tendency to publish failed experiments as a result of the growth in the number of open access journals is important.

As the author of the article says of the paper, ‘It is not destined to be highly-cited because, as the last line of the summary on page one makes clear, the results are negative: “in no case were specific protease–substrate interactions observed.” ‘  So not only were they not able to generate the interactions they had hoped to be able to generate, they also don’t expect the paper to be widely cited – acknowledging failure in this case opens up another form of failure.

On the importance of being negative | Science | The Guardian.

Failure, Diebenkorn

Posted in Failure by chrisfremantle on March 1, 2015

Diebenkorn was more troubled by easy perfection: he wanted his paintings to resolve problems but not so thoroughly that they seemed pat or pretty, the marks of struggle erased.  The more restructios he could create for himself, the freer he could be in improvising his way to a solution.  But it also mattered to him that his errors lingered on as the repentance marks of pentimenti, the term for when an artist has second thoughts, redoing part of a painting, but leaving traces of what has gone before.  In Diebenkorn’s work, these regions, which he called “crudities”, can be vast, ghost tracts of colour imperfectly repressed, or alternatively small spatters and splodges, accidents that opened up a new road to “rightness”.

Olivia Laing, Lovely imperfection, The Guardian, Saturday 28 February 2015.

Thinking about failure

Posted in CF Writing, Failure, Research by chrisfremantle on October 24, 2014

Slides of a paper on failure co-authored with Dr Gemma Kearney and presented at the NSEAD/iJade conference in Liverpool.

Methodologies of Failure

Posted in Failure by chrisfremantle on March 27, 2013

Justin Langlois put a set of questions (a self-evaluation toolkit?) directed at artists engaged in social practice on Portland’s Art and Social Practice Masters blog.  It’s humourous, provocative and pointed.

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we tried something, we failed, we burnt it down

Posted in Failure by chrisfremantle on March 18, 2013

“How you can be doing that work, how you can be this radical alternative, and those oppressive structures return so unconsciously?”

Transcript of a discussion about collectives and failure.  Collectives, which are meant to be a radical alternative to the marketisation of the individual in the art economy, end up sliding unconsciously into patriarchies, or being co-opted by institutions and failing in the ambition to be radical.

Learning from Mistakes in Art and Education

Posted in Failure by chrisfremantle on March 14, 2013

Fail better | e-flux

Posted in Failure by chrisfremantle on March 12, 2013

Fail better at the Hamburger Kunsthalle (not a case of What art have I seen?)

“Try again / fail again / fail better,” is an inspirational quote by the Irish writer Samuel Beckett. During his visit to Germany around 75 years ago, Beckett made a number of extended visits to the Hamburger Kunsthalle, and now—in keeping with his famous motto—the Kunsthalle is presenting a diverse selection of films and videos on the theme of failure. In works dating from the 1960s to the present day, internationally acclaimed artists explore this complex phenomenon, highlighting not only the playful, amusing and surprising aspects of failure but also its mournful and tragic dimensions.

read on at e-flux…

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Grupo Etcetera on failure

Posted in Failure by chrisfremantle on February 21, 2013

From Grupo Etcetera presentation at CCA Glasgow.

Errorism: practice philosophy that bases its actions on error

Errorists: multitudes, subjects or groups that practice errorism

“The Movement also opens ways to consider the notion of error as a fundamental human condition in the capitalist world that eschews mistakes and failures.”

see also http://actipedia.org/project/international-errorist-movement

Failure and social mobility

Posted in Failure by chrisfremantle on February 20, 2013

A piece in the Guardian juxtaposed the (excessive) focus on examinations with the need to be able to cope with failure.  Apparently research studies have shown that those who are better able to cope with setbacks (e.g. poor exam results) are more likely to be resilient and be able to succeed in life.

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Failures

Posted in Failure, Research by chrisfremantle on November 26, 2012

I’ve started adding examples of failure into my blog. I’ve tried to put them into the blog at the time they happened. This will probably mean that there is a clump retrofitted into the time before I started actually keeping the blog. And to be honest I’m not going to be able to put anything that’s going on right now that might constitute failure for obvious reasons, so this will be a backwards looking exercise.

The first I put in is a misunderstanding from the late 90s. I was running SSW and trying to learn about artists working in the landscape. I was picking up on references to John Latham and his work in Scotland. I had heard that it had something to do with the bings of West Lothian. So I was down, probably visiting with relatives and went looking. I came across the Five Sisters near a now defunct retail park. I took a load of pictures. I thought at the time John Latham was an important largely unknown British land artist in the American sense. I thought he had literally shaped this monumental earthwork. It took a while for me to understand what was really going on. I did write about that a while ago here.

I think this is typical for me. Often I’ll misunderstand something to start with, and it will take a while for me to get it the right way around, sort out what’s important.  Interestingly Johan Siebers recently highlighted the Slow Science movement and in their manifesto they say,

We do need time to think. We do need time to digest. We do need time to mis­understand each other, especially when fostering lost dialogue between humanities and natural sciences. We cannot continuously tell you what our science means; what it will be good for; because we simply don’t know yet. Science needs time.

The next example is a piece I was asked to write as an introduction to a catalogue. This would be around 2001. The catalogue was for the exhibition Common Place at The Lighthouse in Glasgow. I was living and working up in the North East of Scotland and I got completely obssessed by farm bothies, bothy ballads, Bob Dylan and the way that these were connected. I wrote the piece. It definitely wasn’t what was wanted. There is a model for writing an introduction to an exhibition catalogue and I missed that model completely. It’s taken me a very long time to work out that models are important. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time. I like starting with a blank sheet of paper. Not everyone else does.  You can read it here.

This brings me onto another failure – if being made redundant from a local authority is a failure (could it actually be a badge of success?). Before I went freelance I worked as the Arts Links Officer for South Ayrshire Council. They made me redundant at the end of the contract in 2006. I went freelance and have not looked back. Even in South Ayrshire, where I still live, I think I’ve achieved more since than I ever did during. But I do think there was a conceptual failure on my part. I don’t think I understood that I was simply there to deliver on existing models. What I should have been doing was networking with other Links Officers to find out what was being done in other Local Authorities across Scotland and simply bring those programmes to South Ayrshire. I was doing some of that, but I was always looking to make it distinctive, specific to that place.

Another much earlier failure, again at SSW, was not managing to deliver the tenth edition of the Scottish Sculpture Open. That should have opened in 1999 in early July. I had a number of meetings with SSW Board members and we discussed and or approached a couple of people to be guest artists (I remember Martin Puryear and John David Mooney). I remember writing to Puryear and sending him some images of Kildrummy Castle. He didn’t want to do it. The Sculpture Open had been done on a shoe string in the past and we had, with the ninth edition, tried to do it properly with at least some fees and production expenses. It has to be said that there were a few other things going on at the time, but essentially I definitely failed to keep the programme going.

So why put examples of failure into my blog? Failure is something we don’t talk about enough. There is Beckett’s brilliant quote,

Ever tried.
Ever failed.
No matter.
Try Again.
Fail again.
Fail better.

Samuel Beckett

Failure is about taking risks. There seems to be a bigger and bigger gap between the public sector and the private sector in terms of risks. It is talked about a bit in terms of design and innovation – fail fast, fail frequently. On the other side the requirements in the public sector for clear identification of outputs, outcomes and risk assessments are all limiting the bureaucratic exposure to risk and pushing it onto individuals and organisations.

Working with staff at Gray’s School of Art on a research residency last year we discussed failure a lot. The staff highlighted how difficult it is to promote failure as an important way of working for art school students. All the staff were quite happy to talk about failure in their own practice. Most said that failure was a more common experience than success. No one had any problem talking about failure.

But they described the situation where students need to be prepared to make works that fail, but they are constantly worried about grading and being failed. How can you develop a practice that has a healthy relationship with failure if the structure you are working in constantly threatens you with failing the course?

Failure is about learning. By listing failures I am also listing things I have learnt from (or should have learnt from). Talking to Chris Hewson from Manchester School of Architecture, who’s doing research into multi-faith spaces, he said that the Planner on the research team is always wanting to visit spaces that don’t work, rather than the ones that are exemplary. He says you learn more. People can tell you exactly why spaces don’t work, but find it more difficult to explain why things do work.

There are some good books on failure:

Antebi, N., Dickey, C., Herbst, R. (Eds). (2007). Failure! Experiments in Aesthetics and Social Practices.  Los Angeles, CA : The Journal of Aesthetics and Protest Press.  http://www.journalofaestheticsandprotest.org/ accessed 26 November 2012.

Hope, S. (2011).  Participating the Wrong Way: Four Experiments by Sophie Hope.  London: Cultural Democracy Editions.  http://culturaldemocracyeditions.sophiehope.org.uk/ accessed 26 November 2012.

Le Feuvre, L. (ed).  (2010).  Failure (Documents of Contemporary Art).  London: Whitechapel Art Gallery.

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Failure – unrealised projects

Posted in Failure by chrisfremantle on May 9, 2006

Murdo Macdonald had told me about the duplication of statues of Robert Burns.  The ones we are familiar with in Scotland also exist in the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.  We made a proposal to the Maclaurin Trust to develop an exhibition for the 250th anniversary of the birth which was going to happen in 2009.  We did a presentation to them.  They never responded – they must have buried it.  Read it: Proposal Burns Statues MM.

Failure

Posted in Failure by chrisfremantle on February 26, 2006
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Failure

Posted in Failure by chrisfremantle on January 1, 2005

I failed to understand John Latham’s Placement at the Scottish Office: see short text describing failure written in early 2005 about a misunderstanding that must have taken place before 2003 – probably in the late 90s.

Failure

Posted in Failure by chrisfremantle on December 5, 2002

I was asked to write a text by the Lighthouse for a catalogue associated with their exhibition Common Place.  I got the wrong end of the stick and wrote something about Bob Dylan and Bothy Ballads (you can read it here).  My piece was never published.  They had to get someone else to do the job.

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Failure

Posted in Failure by chrisfremantle on July 1, 1999
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