Presented at the Centre d’art contemporain La Halle des Bouchers de Vienne, the exhibition “Try again. Fail again. Fail better” is based on negligence, faux pas, and meanderings, while expressing a notion of serendipity. This refers to the faculty of making a chance discovery while initially working in a different direction. By showcasing diverse artworks in terms of practices, for the curators, Marianne Derrien and Sarah Ilher-Meyer, it is a matter of departing from a conceptual framework in order to extend the implications, but also to show that a notion of error, far from acting as a flaw or lack, contains real legitimacy. The error, in that respect, can be distinguished from the kind seen in the context of learning, because in that case it would only be given a transitory value, instead of granting it the possibility of being an end in itself. By integrating errors and clumsiness in the various phases of research, it is the nature of the creative process that is questioned and that is the real focus here.
So, while the notion of error describes a theme that is relatively difficult to pinpoint in plastic terms, the curators manage to liberate themselves from an illustrative dimension by presenting various facets of the same problem while outlining particularly coherent frameworks from one artwork to the next. Then there is the piece by Simon Nicaise, presented early in the exhibition pathway, which has a kind of exemplarity in its ability to synthesize in a relatively clear way a notion that seems to contain the tools of its contradiction within itself. As though it were striving to work out an example of a concept of negation, the work entitled (50+ 8ln(x)x6,5) 13n/(V5+7yn) = 0² features a compass that we naturally imagine is designed to trace circles, but that in fact presents an incomplete square. Also, an impossible mission is brought to light in terms of logic, which, at the same time, defies our spirit of rationality and the conception that we may have of algebraic exactness, as certified by the unlikely equation serving as a title. In the present case, the error intervenes in such a way as to assume singular consistency, if only because it seems materialised in plastic form, but also because it is the nature of an equation to aspire to resolve it and to show that an equivalency is true. In other words, with the rigueur of a mathematical demonstration, the artwork tells us that the error is no longer an error, but another kind of truth.
Other works strive to retranscribe the inevitable and necessary character of the error, particularly by introducing a logic of constraint that is usually synonymous with obstacles. All in all, this allows the obvious construction of a narrative framework or a result to be diverted in order to elicit unexpected situations. The video-performance Geranos by Gregory Buchert, for instance, shows this with a situation of dizziness. Creating an imbalance in the inner ear so as to reproduce a dance dating from antiquity, he manages to obtain a chance choreography not devoid of humour, since the constraint acts here as the creative principle while being correlated to an idea of lack of self-control, which is possibly a paradox unto itself. From there, too, comes Ahram Lee’s proposition, consisting of an urban stroll accompanied by a booklet, which relates the set of typological characters encountered on detours and developments along the way, as though to signify the need to compensate for the normative character of language devices through interventions that promote chance events and circumstances.
This last proposition also bodes well for the critical potential of works that strive to point out a technical modernity characterised by its procedural rigidity, mechanical, and coded character, as well as its obsession for results. Xavier Antin falls precisely within this perspective, by reconfiguring inkjet printers to incorporate errors and an element of chance. By showing metal plates tracing distracted impressions made by human intervention, the idea here is to circumvent the domination of nature through technique, and hence thwart the ideology of a modern world aiming for a certain form of perfection.
Overall, the project that consists of giving some credit back to the error as a creative principle is well orchestrated by the two curators, particularly because the various perspectives present an eclecticism that may have gone unsuspected. Above all, the artworks manage to refract great wisdom without omitting a somewhat uplifting dimension, for instance in the multifaceted compositions of Gabriel Méo made of recuperated materials and self-professed failures, which remind us (if a reminder was needed) that there is some contentment to be found in the act of creating while relieving oneself of all obstacles.