Failure in Art

In my senior year of high school I had decided that music was the path I wanted to take in higher education. In order to help me better get a grasp on this decision, my grandfather introduced me to a young college graduate who had been working in the music industry for several years and was now pursuing a degree in business. If one thing really stood out from that encounter it was his comparison of the music business to a roller coaster: “one minute you’re on top of the world and about to hit it big and the next you’re nothing. its a repeating cycle.”


For any artist, the big question, inevitably becomes: what do you mean to the world? As creative individuals we throw our arms out to the world and hope to be embraced whether it is before or after we die. We hope that our expression moves someone else so that in our connectedness we are elevated. At its highest moments we see a transcendence of knowledge and emotion in the most successful individuals.


The failure of the artist is another understanding, however. At best, the artwork that is unsuccessful is met with such a downfall as to be analogous with its grand attempt and is, thus, elevated in the illustration of the artists passion. Far more often, though, the failed artwork is subject to so minuscule a reaction as to make those involved wonder if it had ever even happened at all. This is the worst type of failure because as the aspiring artist toils, emotionally and physically, for the completion of his work there runs the risk that it will simply be cast into a void that holds no response, an utter drain for the creative spirit. It leaves one stupefied so that now one may question whether to try to improve, start again, or trash the entire enterprise; there is no answer and all that can follow is a depressive state.


In the fulfillment of every creative undertaking lies a large amount of risk, not in the possibility of some grand failure or rejection, but in the fear of a total lack of response, blank stares or an empty hall. But love for this craft is an acceptance of such risk and true resilience to this outcome lies in pleasure with ones own creation and a sincere attempt at connectedness with others.