All Aboard The Failboat 2


I posted a fleshed out version of this in April 2013 but it seems to have disappeared. Here are my notes:

Title: All Aboard the Failboat! – a series of questions about the relationship between the concepts of failure and the lived body and the creation of live art.

First, some starting points:

What is a Lived Body? Merleau Ponty’s definition was taken as a starting point for this session: a lived body is a body that simultaneously experiences and reacts to the world. The world – I take this to include people, the landscape and things – in turn, responds with an immediate pattern eg a human reacts emotionally/intellectually, a material springs back to pressure.
“Awareness” is also talked about which leads me to my first question for you: how aware are you of the world, the audiences at any given moment during your performance?
Merleau Ponty continues to talk about the relationship between the body and the world through time.

I am particularly interested in intention and its relationship to the concept of failure.

David Morris, a philosopher, talks about the lived body as your “intentional opening to the world”.
For me, intention is key to gauging success or failure.

The next section is called  what is failure, or, How Long is a Piece of Art?
The term “failboat” comes from when a boat upends itself and finds itself perpendicular to the water it’s in. In this case, failure is pretty obvious and measurable. Spectacular even.
In science, a simple statement I’ve encountered is: if it can’t be measured, then it doesn’t exist.
Here come Some more questions:
– what is your work?
– how do you measure your success or failure?
– do you think about the end product, the performance, or the process ie any shortcomings in the lead up to the end?
– speaking of ends, WHEN is your performance? Allan Taylor, one of the artists at this festival, and I were discussing the continuous effect art has. What is the unit or lifespan of your piece? What is your experiments beginning and does it have an end? If art asks questions, and if questions are openings up,
Then your performance has a ripple effect and there is no end. Does this mean that there is then no such thing as failure?

Last night, my one on one encounters threw up many instances where we discussed the openness, space and freedom that art engenders. Do you see your Art as having a generative effect?

One of my audience members, an artist, said that on encountering inspiring art, he felt enabled: “You making That enables me to make This”.  The world for someone to exist (and create) in is expanded.

Poet Seamus Heaney wrote: “I rhyme to see myself, to set the darkness echoing”

What is this darkness? this outside world? all this openness and space may be dangerous in its liminality. Murphy’s law states that every kind of failure is possible and likely to occur.
– when do we welcome things not going according to plan?
– what if the world doesn’t react the way we want it to, what if this is occurring during the performance?
In clowning, the clown seeks to be “in the shit” because its during the messy, exposed extrication when the magical connection and communication sparks between performer and audience.
– how much and when do you allow for messiness to happen in your work?
– what does risk mean to you?
– how do you see the relationship between risk, danger, controversy, transgression and generosity,
Openness, communication and connection?

Merleau Ponty also mentions perception. You may think that failure is occurring, eg during a performance, but your perception may not be accurate.
– how much do you adjust during a live performance? How much do you throw away and how much do you keep, having faith in the process that’s led you to that encounter?
– who is the encounter for? What is your relationship to the audience?
You have created a shared space through your live Performance – what is the nature of this relationship? How much to- and fro-ing is allowed?
Do you allow the audience to change your work live, do you assess how they have affected your work post-performance?
When are these questions desirable and when are they a deadening constriction?

Finally, I believe that as long as the elements of people and live performance are in your work, things will NEVER go exactly as planned. Knowledge of this is empowering. You, the artist, remain in control because of your preparation: your intention and decision-making.

We all have our individual approaches and practices. I propose that we continue to create charged spaces – eg the space between artist and audience- that are open to endless possibility.

“Fuck concepts. Don’t be afraid to be confused. Try to remain permanently confused. Anything is possible.” (George Saunders).


Vera Chok presented The Happy Artist, a series of one on one improvised encounters entirely dependent on the artist-audience relationship.
Vera studied Human sciences and Archaeology & Anthropology with a special interest in phenomenology, landscape and material culture theory, trained with Philippe Gaulier, clown master, also trained as a classical actor, and am influenced by live artist Stacy Makishi, performance improviser Andrew Morrish and am working with artist Lucy Pawlak on investigating brandscapes (constructed landscapes)

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