The Event of the Falling Rock
"Practices that deploy the act of repeated failure subvert the demands of a culture driven by performance success and productive efficiency, not because they refuse to perform, rather because they prefer not to aspire towards completion--they just keep on performing. [...] Conceived as a model of 'preferring not to,' failure is liberated from its negative designation and allowed the opportunity of being 'preferred,' where it can be read even as a desirable condition. In Sisyphean terms, this might mean to imagine the event of the falling rock as being 'preferred' to the possibility of the task's completion, where an ecstatic Sisyphus can be imagined taking pleasure in rolling the rock down the hill, as one might take pleasure in the act of sledging. [...] Here, it becomes possible to recuperate Sisyphean activity as a model of resistant non-production or open-endedness, which is inhabited or played out at the threshold between investment and indifference, between insouciance and immersion. Rejecting completion in favour of a redeemed form of anti-climax or deferral, the endless 'fail and repeat' loop proposed within the myth of Sisyphus can be seen as a way to privilege the indeterminate or latent potential of being not-yet-there above the finality of closure. The rule or instruction can as easily become the rules of the game, a generative device for creating infinitely repeatable permutations and rehearsals within a given structure or self-imposed restriction, or the impetus through which to test or push the limits of a given situation in order that the rules might become malleable or redefined."
--Emma Cocker, "Over and Over, Again and Again," in Contemporary Art and Classical Myth, ed. Isabelle Loring Wallace and Jennie Hirsch (Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing Company, 2011), 285-286.
"[T]he concept of failure as something that defines your whole identity is a new thing. In terms of language, it doesn't exist at all before the Civil War: you will not find a sentence like 'I feel like a failure' in American writing before 1860. [...] [F]rom 1820 through the Civil War, or thereabouts, failure was used to describe people who met economic catastrophe, but the construction was, 'I made a failure,' rather than, 'I am a failure.' It was an event that could be discrete, without touching upon one's moral and existential being."
--Scott A. Sandage, Sina Najafi and David Serlin, "The Invention of Failure: An Interview with Scott A. Sandage," Cabinet, no. 7, (Summer 2002)
False Rhyme Project Team