‘A Spectral Building Diamonds Itself’: Failure as a Generative Site for Contemporary Art Practice


‘Failure’, as a preoccupation of twentieth century, Western visual art discourse has been discussed in relation to a lack of artistic mastery (Greenburg), pursued as a post-object conceptual tool (Acconci, Nauman et al), and objectified in the deliberately inadequate work of Mike Kelly, Karen Kilimnik and other ‘abject’ artists.

Hermann Finsterlin, the renowned German artist and architect, never produced a single structure or building. He did, however, make models: fantastical, miniature structures, whose organic forms seemed absurd, illogical and hopelessly unrealisable. Despite this, his wildly creative ideas were rich with potentiality; laying down the groundwork for future architects and, finally, perhaps brought to fruition in the incredible buildings of Frank Gehry.

‘Failure’, in its capacity as a trigger or agent for irregular inquiries, and as a model or propositional tool, is the location for my current PhD research. Failed, partial or unrealised creative ideas – in the form of un-built or non-works, may contain fresh hypotheses or unexamined tangential inquiries. My paper will closely examine the generative potential of discomfiture, with the focus on unrealised and/or unsuccessful works.

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Katrina SIMMONS:

Katrina Simmons is an artist, writer and lecturer, currently undertaking a studio-based PhD at the School of Art, University of South Australia. Her research speculates on the generative potential of failure in contemporary art practice. Simmons has written numerous catalogue essays and has also published reviews in Vitamin, Realtime and Broadsheet. Her work has been included in Snapshot: Contemporary South Australian Art at the Experimental Art Foundation, Adelaide, in July 2006, and she will show new work in the major group exhibition Someone shows something to someone at the Canberra Contemporary Art Space in October 2006. Her work will be included in a new touring exhibition for CAST, Hobart, in 2007.