Celebrate Failure

I’m sure I’m not alone in saying this, but I can sometimes be quite hard on myself for not nailing every personal project idea that inspired me to pick up tools and start working. You know, those playful musical or artistic experiments that ended up being a Frankenstein work that didn’t quite live? Defeated, I have every intention of revisiting it in future to try to revive it (and win back some pride), but like a hideous monster it will sit tucked away in my studio, gurgling at my failure.


I recently came across a great documentary series called, “What do artists do all day?”, and I was particularly struck by the episode on Michael Landy and his Art Bin installation.

The giant bin and accompanying staircase occupies a large central space in the gallery, and artists are invited to bring along their creative failures and toss them in from the top of the stairs. Some works quietly flop in the bin, while others crash and explode into pieces. Even Damien Hirst has thrown a couple of pieces into the bin – but that’s all I’ll say about that.

Michael Landy Art Bin

The thing that struck me about Landy’s bin is that we often forget that failures are an integral part of art making and something to be celebrated and valued, not defeated by. Often failures occur when we venture into uncharted territories, try new techniques, dabble with different media, or try to execute an idea that, with afterthought, wasn’t that great to begin with. It’s okay to fail and even successful works have a path of failures that were navigated through to a successful end.

For geographical reasons I doubt I’ll ever have the opportunity to throw any of my failed work into Landy’s bin, but I can still adopt his message and choose to celebrate and accept failure as part of the journey of experimentation for artists.

So, have fun making Frankensteins, perform the occasional ceremonious purge and enjoy the ride!