Anhoek School (orchestrated by Mary Walling Blackburn and Rafael Kelman)
Dillon de Give
With guest speaker Heather Love
Co-curated by Kerry Downey and Natasha Marie Llorens
Failing to Levitate is a platform to think about failure and vulnerability in art practices that are based in the social, in the encounter between people. The project links spaces, bodies, objects, and events in order to consider the ways we gather, socialize, and are affected by the physical conditions of shared space: elevators, board rooms, cars, group exhibitions, Times Square, dance floors...
We borrow our title from Bruce Nauman's eponymous photograph, which shows the artist earnestly attempting to levitate in his studio and then slumping to the floor awkwardly when he fails. This work speaks to the (still) heroic narrative of the lone artist striving towards transcendence through an act of sheer will. We address failure and vulnerability as key terms in this project because any real discussion of either outside of a binary structure challenges the idea of self-mastery. Self-mastery, an ideology that tolerates no weakness, is in turn foundational to masculinism. We appropriate "failing to levitate" in order to attend, instead, to how physical and social spaces fail us, or create spaces for being vulnerable together.
As a result of the varying gestures, experiments, and performances included in this show, the social space of the gallery becomes a space of persistent shift; between artists, from performance to event, between built form and embodied experience. To be vulnerable is to admit that we do not make meaning alone, that we come into being through the recognition of others, that we are responsible to each other. Failure here is not an end—it is a space that opens up after an idea or an experience has exhausted itself, after balloons deflate and the smoke clears. In this space, together, we hover in not knowing and struggling to listen.
NML's curatorial statement is posted here and Kerry Downey's curatorial statement is posted here.
Here is an edited archive of the group's emails to one another throughout the process of the show. An archive of over 900 photos from the project taken by EFA's team is available online here.
Failing to Levitate is made possible in part with public funds from the Manhattan Community Arts Fund, supported by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council and administered by Lower Manhattan Cultural Council. lmcc.net