Blog Archives - FAILURE FARMS

Two men wrongfully dead. And a country in crisis.

Below is a Guardian Cartoon that was intended for the horror of Troy Davis but speaks also to my great sadness and outrage for Jaymey Rodemeyer.

The precision of this week's failure resides in the now irrefutable hypocrisy of the American Way.
It seems almost literary. Failure failed this week. I attended a conference that was specifically looking at Failure in Performance. And it is only now, as I sit aboard a flight bound for Montreal on September 11,  that I realize how perfectly, elegantly timed the whole affair was. 

In the late 1990's everything appeared to become meta. In the theatre, people would say, "oh that was so meta" or "I am so sick of this meta shit". I love how ideas spring to the fore… like the gorgeous blooms of spring… then flowering with such a vengeance and over-bearing fragrance that only those, who stand at a distance, can tolerate the smell, the riot of colour.

So it is becoming for me with failure. To make my point a little differently, last year I got hooked on The "L" Word. I had not watched it in real time, but with the advent of Netflix, the complete history of the series rolled out before me and I followed along. Aside from the fact that I enjoyed it - for the first little while - I became increasingly bothered by the way in which "the story" started feeding on itself. (This is evident in many later season episodes of most now defunct tv series.) At a certain point, the original energy and the grand narrative attached to it, gets exhausted and it begins to turn in on itself, eat its own tail.

I am returning to school - tomorrow - to begin my studies. I am interested in what has recently been called the new and unexpected grand narrative of our time: Failure. (This was said in passing at the conference I attended)  It is September 11, 2011. 10 years on. Last night I saw Decade, presented by The National Theatre. This piece was conceived to look at stories from the 10 years since the world was changed. There is little doubt that Failure is in fashion. I struggle so with fashion.

Today is a marriage.  The 10 year ago flight I was on between Toronto and Vancouver and the one I am on now between London and Montreal. Happy times if you look at it through a specific lens.

So why did failure fail this week? The conference was illuminating. And - therefore -  Failure failed to disappoint me. It still makes me very nervous. I still struggle with how my interest will not become wholly self-absorbed, and finally I struggle with the "energy" of the word. But in fitting terms some of my greatest successes as a theatre maker are tied to the work created under the Die In Debt company name. It is a concept as real as failure, as difficult as well. But as with the shadow side of failure, so too the contextual placement of the company's prophetic name.

Benvolio says to Romeo at the end of Act 1 Scene 1

I'll pay that doctrine or else die in debt.

There is valour in dying this way (although I stretch the smaller meaning of the line) but regardless…to die trying has nobility in it. So while the news is bleak, and systems are "failing" all around us, there remains the possibility that in the larger story, failure is simply part of the continuum and that "failure" (as indicated to me at the stimulating TAPRA Conference this week)is continually eating its own tail, and becoming something else. So in this sense not even failure is immune to failing.

Nuance is failing. I keep believing in the binary even though I know... and am oft told...that there is another way. In easy terms; failure is determined in relation to success and visa versa. This - of course - limits our capacity to sit between states and to  - perhaps - sense/witness/absorb that which permeates the membrane. In other words fluid can exist within and without but it can also sluice around in the "in between". People talk about "the transformational space" and I have heard failure itself suggested to be just such a space. But I would suggest that - for me - failure is the inability to fully appreciate this in between-ness, an inability to privilege the existence of this space. I can talk about it, perhaps even comprehend that it exists, but in real terms I am completely incapable of giving over to the non-definable yawn between yes and no, failure and success and black and white. And it is of no advantage - to me  - to add a name to the "in between" because "maybe" "passing" and "grey" become poles like any other in a polarized existence. The "in between" pole becomes a straight up and down stand-in for all the lateral space that is held between the "yes" and the "no". So while I understand that the world is far more complex than the either/or (with a possible 3rd pole) might suggest...I fail at living productively within this reality. I am either this or that (with the occasional nod to an in between descriptive). I fail - it would appear - at being fully human. And now to link my failure to an anecdote from the world stage. I turn to the now lower stakes story that is beginning to be told about former IMF head Strauss-Kahn. After being jettisoned from his lofty heights as head of this... uhm questionable... organization, and being touted as the next president of the Republic of France as a result of a shocking allegation of rape and/or sexual misconduct perpetrated against Sofitel chambermaid Nafissatou Diallo...the charges that first appeared have now been dropped. The witness who was previously credible is now deemed unreliables, and images that used to feature Strauss-Kahn slumped alone on a convict's bench, now show him holding proud hands with his wife. Now to be fair these images are shown while - all the while -  still suggesting that there may have been "indiscretions" with yet another woman too.... But the language has changed. He is slowly being removed from the hot-seat. And there has even been a renewed(though scant) interest in the possibility of him heading the Republic at some point in the future. This is a whiplashing for anyone (such as I)  trying to set up a tent to withstand a storm. If I lay my tent poles into the certainty of his guilt... but wake up to the certainty of his innocence than there is little doubt that I got soaked the night before. My sleeping bag is a damp stinking mess. But if I- as one who better than I understands the lateral platform of uncertainty - had set my sleeping bag up on the fold-down back of an automobile (even though this offends my sensibilities of what is proper camping) - well not only might I have awoken quite comfortably dry but I might also have awoken with a sense of the fullness of possibility. I don't know this man. I have no idea whether or not he is capable of doing the things the charges against him have suggested. Nor do I know anything about the women he may or may not have violated. What I do know is that there is a very wide berth between the two possibilities of guilt and non-guilt. And while I rely on the legal system to help me understand and order the constant chaos of existence (and I do not see this institution as representative of failure) I do see my... and the larger westernized/capitalist domain... to be failing at making space for that real substance - nuance. Nuance is failing. A fundamentalist would cheer! - I think -  and term this a success...Strauss-Kahn undoubtedly has unpleasantness within him (I am loathe to use another word to describe it) and I have little doubt that there is a reasonable amount of backstory to suggest that he has a problem with women, and that furthermore this "problem" causes damage. I cannot prove any of this, but it seems reasonable enough to lay my bet on this notion. And yet I still feel uncertain about where the balance of guilt lies. I am suspicious of him, I am suspicious of the timing of the charges, I am not suspicious of the woman (but this in and of itself makes me suspicious of my capacity to ascertain anything)  but I remain convinced that the truth lies in between the poles of certainty and I am confounded as to how I can hold this belief and still be beaten down by the binary in my own life. Nuance does appear to be failing and I appear to be contributing to this fail.