Talking Heads reporter Lisa Rashleigh reflects on Day of Failure, developed and curated by SMHAF Associate Artist Emma Jayne Park. 

Day of Failure is the brainchild of Artist Emma Jayne Park, who started working on the project as a means of considering, questioning and reflecting upon failure, both personally and on a societal level.

Held in The Work Room at Tramway on a beautiful sunny day, the doors were letting in a soft breeze which complimented the relaxed atmosphere Emma had created for Day of Failure. The morning started gently with an informal but insightful conversation surrounding the scale in which we measure both individual and societal failures. This was followed by conversations about what had brought us to the workshop, how we perceive success and failure, what failure feels like, and what we view to be the opposite of failure. The supportive and respectful environment within the room allowed many group members to feel quite comfortable with sharing their personal feelings and experiences of failure. These conversations allowed for valuable insight and reflection into how the concept of failure affects us all individually, and methods in which we may be able to learn to sit comfortably with our perceived failures. 

During the second half of the day, the group was introduced to Jo Clifford, Adam Kashmiry and Jenna Watt. As explained by Emma, these individuals were people who she viewed as being hugely successful within their personal and professional lives. They had been invited along to the workshop to speak with the group about their personal experiences of failure. Jo, Adam and Jenna shared their stories openly and thoughtfully, and offered their insight and wisdom when group members were invited to comment and ask questions.

To close the day, members of the workshop and extended guests were given a viewing of Epic Fail, a work-in-progress dance theatre exploration of failure. Throughout the five-part performance, failure is explored as a concept that changes over time and as something that has many definitions. The dancers, through their use of movement and ping pong balls, portray the power that the feeling of failure has to weigh us down and hinder our progress. The performance also utilised humor to touch on the phenomenon of the ‘positive affirmation generation’, which often diminishes the valid feelings and actions that are often associated with failure. 

Speaking briefly with Emma at the end of the day, she explained: ‘I want people to leave today with the generosity to let themselves fail’. Emma explained she also hoped that people would leave the workshop with a deeper understanding of how their words and actions have an effect on people’s perception of success and failure: ‘I also want people to be in a place where they question their actions, be less clumsy’.

Day of Failure and Epic Fail both resulted in a truly enjoyable and thought-provoking day. It offered insight into the deeply ingrained view of failure that we hold personally and collectively as a society and challenged us to think on the concept in a new a light. Failure is an inevitable part of life, but how we choose to view it and use our experience to move on is where the benefits may be hidden.

by Lisa Rashleigh

Lisa is a 25-year-old Australian living in Glasgow. She has a background in youth work and homelessness, and is currently working as an independent advocate. Lisa is passionate about both mental health and the Glaswegian music and art scene. Follow her on Instagram @bin_leisel or on twitter @LisaRashleigh.

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