Rachel Parish, 25 January 2015

I called a meeting to discuss the launch of the International Failure Institute and to

announce we are open for participants!

Here's the start of a manifesto-esque description of what IFI is/will be. In truth, I'm

giving a structure to it now, so if you're excited by the title, anything you read below, or

have anything you want to contribute, drop me a line at [email protected].


The International Failure Institute (IFI) is an open group dedicated to the rehabilitation

and reclamation of the concept of failure in the artistic and scientific process. We

believe that a narrow focus on success as the manufacturing of a ‘valuable’

end-product neglects the fact that process and failure are key to any artistic or

scientific endeavor. We aim to re-establish the primacy of process, decommission the

connotations surrounding failure, and invigorate the investigation of what artists and

scientists actually are doing during that 99% of their time that does not have them

standing before their so-called successes.

We propose to engage creative innovators in wide ranging fields including the arts,

sciences, medicine, politics, social policy and the environment.

To be a member is to be an ‘IFI person’.

The institute will establish live and virtual meetings of IFI people from across

disciplines, continents and mental spaces to discuss process vs product in the act of

creation, to investigate without shame the individual failures of IFI people and

historical monumental failures in the arts and sciences. This rolling group-investigative

phase will have multiple goals. 1) To unburden IFI people of their own negative

feelings around failure and the tyranny of product and to thus create an expanding

group equipped to promote the aims of the institute 2) to generate novel means of

engaging the public and the broader creative community in order to promote IFI’s aims

3) to reflectively explore the institutes own process, it’s failures, creations, and to laugh

at them and ourselves.

What happened at the session today

This session at D and D began with a discussion about what attracted people to come

to the session. Below are some notes of how people responded:

Failure is exciting.

Things emerge that you had no idea could happen.

We like work that has no focus on virtuosity.

International collaboration

The different points of view that international work must contain and the failed

communications that comes from this is a fruitful area of exploration for IFI

Failure is basically PROCESS. It is that part where a group of people figure out how to

work together

More than any other thing I've done, I have failed

TED talks show people who fail and fail and continue to keep working

Clowning is a really good example of failure put to use in theatre

Failure is often funny


Failure is cathartic and entertaining

What kind of things would you like to see an arts led international failure institute do?

create a support group

create an advocacy group

Is the title problematic? Is it doomed to failure if it succeeds? Is it off-putting? The

general consensus to this was no, that the title is fun, exciting, and provocative. It also

is a challenge to focus on process rather than focus on product.

What are the different ways that someone could engage with IFI?



Rigourous research with an online resource of writing

A series of experiments in failure–setting yourself up for certain failure and seeing

what comes out

Failing visibly–a series of workshop exercises of performing random and embarrassing


A series of interdisciplinary experiments in failure (e.g. scanning brain waves as a

performer realises they are failing)

Psychological experiments

A social media platform for people to highlight their failures rather than their successes

A place for people to publish their failures

What are your metrics for success and failure?

We spoke a lot about how failure is judged–whether it is an internal assessment or an

external assessment.

Is there good failure and bad failure?

One way of thinking: Can you fail and stay awake?

In a rehearsal room, you create safe spaces to fail, but then that can often close down

as you move toward performance.

There is a period of time in which it is perceived that you can fail and thats good and

one in which it becomes bad.

But the possibility of failure keeps a performance alive.

The formal set up of theatre is based on the shared understanding that the performers

will fail to convince the audience that they are actually the people/situation/etc that

they are presenting.

What about people who don't think they can fail?

IFI is exciting and important because it creates a space for things that could be


There is no failure without hope

Could you help venues with harnessing the energy that comes out of a show that is

perceived as a failure?

Could one effort be to create a living and rolling definition of failure?

Failure is a precious space

What would an artist led IFI look like?(that would make it distinct from one led from

another position)

Artists have a closer and more intimate relationship with failure than anyone else–we

are both experts and guinea pigs. An artist-led IFI says that we will partly mine

ourselves for material and we will equally make ourselves available for other sectors to


In attendance

Becca, Louise, Brad, Roberto, Matthew, Nick, Tiania, Fleur, German, Caley, Victor,

Lucy, Heather, Mark, Verena, Alex, Mary, Kitty, Dan