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Risk and failure in art and blogging

'Sid Lives Here.'. Basically we walk the back-to-front D shape, and often go inside this shape amongst the trees. Sid always gets us on the straight path back towards his house.

'Sid Lives Here.'. Basically we walk the back-to-front D shape, and often go inside this shape amongst the trees. Sid always gets us on the straight path back towards his house.



Matt Roberts 49


Christopher Thomas considers the importance of potential failure in art-making as described in artists’ blogs.

Looking at the most recent entries, it seems clear that something remarkable is happening on these pages. Jacqueline Berridge’s account of her efforts to establish a studio complex, whilst maintaining her own practice and her sanity, could almost be published as a helpful manual for anyone starting an art space. Rob Turner’s dog-walking diary seems to function simultaneously as a therapeutic exercise for the artist, an insight into the psychology of art-making for the reader and perhaps even a literary or performative work of art in itself. This is to name just a couple.

The value of many of these project diaries lies in their sustained development over time. So what of the blogs that won’t grow to include hundreds of entries over several years? Amongst the very earliest attempts (from when Projects Unedited began in 2007) are three charming entries by Matt Roberts whose public art commission was subject to funding and planning consent. He sets out to document the project’s “highs and lows and it's eventual success or complete disaster”.

The diary is abandoned three months into the project so we don’t really know if he ever brought either Goya or Saint Sebastian to a public park in Leeds through the medium of a punching bag. But considering the council representative’s question quoted in the final blog entry – “is that art?” – we can guess. And therein lies for me the real value of Projects Unedited: they are unedited. Of course a-n doesn’t commission or alter them but also the artists don’t know where they will lead. This may be an obvious thing to point out but it seems important when one considers the strategies persistently employed in a (paradoxically) risk-averse art market to avoid the potential of failure.

Even the long shadow cast by the historical phenomenon of YBA – which was broadly about success and required success in order to function – still looms over at least the mainstream press. But in this self-originating corner of art writing, what is staked by many of these artists, through their accounts of the lows as well as the highs of art-making, documenting projects that may not go anywhere, is a wholehearted (and frequently transparent) engagement with the potential of failure. Right now, these risks seem to me to be not only terribly exciting but maybe also vitally important.

There’s a lovely epilogue to these comments on art and failure: a few days after I wrote this article (but before it went live) I bumped into a guy called Matt who had set up a project space in East London with an internationally touring exhibition programme. I was impressed by his programme. He had no punching bag but it turned out to be the same Matt Roberts.


Christopher Thomas is an artist and the Arts Editor at Stimulus Respond He is co-curating Alternative Risk Transfer in East London in December and his work can currently be seen in Bloomberg New Contemporaries 2009.


Go to Rob Turner's blog »

Go to Jacqueline Berridge's blog »

Go to Matt Roberts blog »

Go to Matt Roberts Arts »

First published: June 2009

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