As an artist and educator, I am an advocate of failure as a necessary step within the artistic process. My teaching philosophy stems from advice I was given by one of my instructors in graduate school to ‘Take a risk and fail.’ I believe that art practices should be about expressing ideas, pushing innovation and stepping outside of one’s own comfort levels.
Samuel Beckett once wrote, “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” I have found that the best way to foster the growth of new and challenging forms of art is to encourage my students to be unafraid to take risks and to fail.
I have seen many students inhibited by the fear of stepping outside of their comfort levels because they are afraid of owning up to these risks during in-class critiques. I myself started off as one of those students as I spent my first year in graduate school well within my comfort zone, only churning out projects that I knew I could tackle. I reached my potential with the way I was shooting, but I was afraid to try something new. I received high praise for technical execution from my peers and teachers, but overall I felt like my projects lacked real depth.
Upon taking my instructors advice to be unafraid to take risks, I learned more about my own photographic practice through failures than successes. I learned to analyze why something failed, which made me think deeper about how to improve upon my work to create a successful project or concept.
I stress to students that it’s okay to fail because every little failure or unsuccessful project will often lead them one step closer to breaking through to something truly remarkable and unique. Every risk taken will unlock a new set of ideas that can be brought into future artistic endeavors. Failure is the greatest step toward success.
Achieving these objectives requires making the students active participants as much as possible. On a simple level, this involves developing inquiry-based activities to stimulate their curiosity while guiding them through the artistic process.Encouraging students to take risks and fail helps them to create a better dialogue about their practice to their peers. It encourages them to look at their art in different and exciting ways.