Why Failure = Success in Tech and Art

The Lumarca project by artist Albert Hwang, Matthew Parker at Eyebeam in New York City (photo: Patrick Lydon)

The Lumarca project by artist Albert Hwang, Matthew Parker at Eyebeam in New York City (photo: Patrick Lydon)

A fellow San Jose Arts Commissioner forwarded us a note from the American Association of Museums this afternoon which pointed out a primary need to break down barriers, change mindsets, blah blah blah.

What we found most interesting in the note, however, was that the AAM — in reviewing grant applications where $500,000 was being doled out — cited a need for grant applicants to take risks. Playing it safe won’t get you the money anymore.

Thinking more about this thing we call “innovation” and this thing we call “art.” It’s become common place of late to go on about separating the two from each other. What is innovative is not art, and what is art is not innovative, and in Silicon Valley, risk is only a thing which belongs in startup companies.

But in talking with the kind folks at ZERO1 these past few months regarding their innovative Garage project, it is evident that they also realize the need to support and embrace failure in the arts.

Support and Embrace Failure!? Why on earth would we do such a thing?

Well, risk and failure are ideas which are central to innovation, and especially important to the tech culture of Silicon Valley, where failure = a chance to learn and grow. But somehow gets lost in translation when it comes to the arts. People don’t often put the arts and technology in the same light.

But iPhone or Joan Brown painting (note to SF Bay residents: check out the Joan Brown exhibition up at San Jose Museum of Art) they’re both works of art from creative people, and they both have important utility in our society. Of course, this utility shows itself in different ways, but both creations from human beings are undeniable works of… well… creativity.

The only difference, I suppose, is that one tends to give you headaches, and the other calming introspection.

Patrick Lydon

About Patrick Lydon

Patrick is an interdisciplinary artist and writer who works to ignite unconventional, critical dialogues at the intersection of culture and ecology. He is Co-Director of FinalStraw.org, a documentary and active community dialogue about food, earth, and happiness. He holds a BA from San Jose State University and an MFA with distinction from The University of Edinburgh's "Art, Space & Nature" program.

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