The show’s temporal frame included monthly sessions from January to May, each three hours long. Participating artists and curators gathered to share our practices, ideas and questions, reference materials, and short activities. It was time set aside to be together prior to the show’s installation and event series. We were mostly in EFA’s boardroom or gallery, and once we met at an artist’s house. Coffee, tea, snacks, laptops, projector, pens, papers, occasional wi-fi.

Excerpts of a conversation…

January 4th

We have been in touch with you individually to discuss your respective involvement with the project we are organizing together at EFA early next summer. This is an email to begin a more collective discussion.

We are thinking of this show as a performative platform for engaging with questions around vulnerability and failure. As such, there will be monthly gatherings to discuss ideas and readings and to consider the qualities and structures of sharing space (physically, affectively, socially, etc).

These monthly meetings will begin in January on Sunday afternoons and will be roughly 3 hours long. We don't have a set structure at this point. … If you have suggestions from your own research, please do send them our way.

January 24th

I think what I was also trying to get at was that the notion of failure without (a) subject is a bit hard for me to wrap my head around. Seems instead that failure is a condition requiring both an agent (a who or what that fails) and a preposition (a who or what that fails at ____), and that the point of making such a qualification would be in an effort to point to the political moment of a given failure - toward the situated-ness of the terms or actors in a given failure. Maybe that's just one way of trying to hone in on what concerns us?

January 24th

I twinkle fingers this.

There is something about a group of fairly successful people of various privileges spending time together talking abstractly about failure that makes me want to actually fail at something.

January 26th

Even if the assumptions inside of watching someone perform are not as normative as "please show me everything you can do and do it right and the way I want to see it", rage still is present inside of that held space, the space that lets me be looked at and for someone else, an other, to look. Maybe this doesn't apply to other ways of thinking about failure, I just want to add a space for it to exist phenomenologically where it is actually not in relation to success and being out of touch with that. Maybe rage is where I am interested in speaking to, from and about as an offshoot of this idea of failure.

February 12th

For me, failure is eliminating the options and vulnerability the empowering tool I use to connect with the world.

February 25th

I'd like to offer this surveillance icon [Teufelsberg], rather than visual transparency, it's purpose was listening-- The abandoned Bucky-dome phallus that was former NSA headquarters during the cold war. Built no less, upon the ruins of a building constructed by the architect Hitler did choose, Albert Speer. (as well as upon all of the rubble from buildings destroyed in the war)

March 17th

Recent links to surveillance (Teufelsberg, Mies' Modernist glass house, the X-Ray) link inside/outside or public/private life in ways I find really exciting to think about. Glass walls, histories or technologies of communication, the X-Ray, and the glass house are measures of good health (whoa, contrary to the thick concrete of many kinds of health care institutions). I'm thinking a lot about what is means to see "inside," how vulnerable or alternately abstract or impossible this can be. Amongst us we have a diverse history of producing works that complicate the public/private binary--where private acts are made public or public acts become privatized. Viewer and artist are often implicated in acts of viewing or being together. I see you all being linked by this way of addressing the conditions of shared space.

March 18th

- I was shocked to find out that this Farnsworth project ended in a lawsuit. This means that one of the most significant pieces of 20th century architecture failed in terms of client service.

- The whole Miesian project was accused of being Nazi propaganda. Somehow this almost failing feels closest to the Fail Better business mantra, but maybe that's just because I closely associate corporatism and fascism.

March 23rd

I wanted to bring in to the discussion an article I had read years ago Claire Bishop's "Collaboration and It's Discontents," a biting critique of relational aesthetics at the time it was written, has been reworked for her recently published book Artificial Hells. … the questions themselves - about the neoliberal co-optations and even, perhaps, frameworks at the heart of a lot of "community" artwork - echo some of the concerns I myself feel … the Ted Talk-ification of social practice.

March 24th

Nice to meet you yesterday. There didn't seem to be a good moment to say it, but I appreciated your short presentation. Especially the idea of marking the starting point of an involvement, and seeking a continuity from that beginning through to the public exhibition. Something about that struck me as very exciting and hopeful. And yet so easy to overlook, and difficult to satisfy.

March 29th

Noticing the diagonal supports that run across the ceiling of the space, noticing the dirty windows, speaking about whether the windows look out or reflect in – whether they turn the space into a stage or a pair of eye-glasses. The discussion of metonyms for gathering – the coffee that is not about coffee but can’t really happen without the coffee, somehow, to suture its sociality. Layers of meaning around these strange terms that shift and settle and shift again, so thick.

March 29th

I guess I am directly interested in participation as a challenging, almost impossible space. It is so hard to come together, to be together, to get close to ways to understand. I am trying to open up my lens for this project, I want to make sure I don't funnel myself into a space of performing failure or successfully failing.

March 31st

RE: The myriad publications that co-opt and redeem “failure”:


back to a recent email:

"...any real discussion of these terms outside of a binary structure challenges the idea of self-mastery"

success/failure unchallenged--CHECK

ideas of mastery intact--CHECK

capitalism maintained--CHECK

masculinist ideas of success and authorship avowed--CHECK

these books are awesome failures

I feel like making an infomercial

March 31st

I thought about your coffee cup, and actually was thinking about the layers of interlocking coffee cup stains on my desk that are a way to think about all the different overlapping group dependencies.

I thought about the arriving at 42nd street image, and the bus station, and that is part of the reason why there is so much dust on the windows.

I thought about your presence in the meeting.

I was wondering if your internship is paid.

April 3rd

… a group show's commons are sonic as well as physical. Sometimes we lick up the melt between pieces and it tastes good; at other times, what becomes apparent is that one piece can't survive next to the other.

… In this latter scenario, is it up to the threatened work to escape to new territory, or to shape itself to the condition established by the other piece? In the ecology of an exhibition like this one, will some works inevitably function as deer, some as trees, some as floods, and some as light? Ours is perhaps a small swarm, or even a singular but pervasive flying insect.

April 22nd

I was interested in blurring these two things (looking and talking) in the big room for the occasion of the opening - with silence and smog.

And it was a way to open up the discussion (which I missed) about how we negotiate our needs, desires and wishes for our work and how or who will take the decision on how we will share space and time in this group show. And I think this discussion has been happening now.