Can creativity be a synonymy for serendipity? This neologism, coined by Horace Walpole in the 18th century, inspired by the tale Les Trois Princes de Serendip, a 16th century Italian novel, designates, notably, the ability to recognize and nurture haphazard discoveries due to error, accident, or even carelessness. However, whether in the field of scientific research or in artistic creation, all creative processes seem to be a pathway guided by experimentation, unforeseen events, and accidents which sometimes open new perspectives and new territories that should be welcomed and interpolated. Although not all creation is the fruit of error, the possibility of error, which is also, in a sense, a wandering, seems to be one of the conditions necessary for ingenuity. Such ingenuity may lead to an escape from the “known.”
Some historical events are the result of haphazard wanderings: in 1492, after a 10,000 kilometers miscalculation, Christopher Columbus discovered San Salvador and Cuba, two islands which would lead to the discovery of the Americas; in 1908, Vassily Kandinsky accomplished his “jump into abstraction” after having observed one of his figurative paintings inadvertently placed upside down; in 1936, Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin after mold mistakenly contaminated a culture of staphylococcus.
Borrowing its title from a quote from Samuel Beckett’s Worstward Ho (1983), the exhibition “Try again. Fail again. Fail better” articulates the paradoxical program of the Irish author: force language into a state of crisis, make it fail, trouble the classic narrative sequence of events, its means and ends, its causes and effects. This strategy reflects the work of the artists brought together here, each one playing with error in order to open new horizons and drive the integrity of their art. Dealing with every sort of failure, mistake, dysfunction and flaw – as well as implementing formal and symbolic techniques – their productions bear witness to voluntary deviations from social, artistic and scientific norms. In addition to revealing the essential springs of artistic inspiration, the stakes are also political. Indeed, in a world where market forces impose a rational and controlled process of production, where everything is planned in advance, mistakes and accidents are considered failures which must be avoided at all cost; the possibility, then, of creative error allows for nothing less than a certain form of freedom.
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