Guest Editor: Tempting Failure

Written by Dr Thomas John Bacon
Tempting Failure takes place 9 to 22 July 2018

Why am I putting myself through this again?

This is a question I have often found myself asking at about this point during the organising of the Tempting Failure festival. It’s a question I have asked myself when I walk away from the aftermath of one of my body based performances - when my body is broken, bleeding and in shock - or moments before attempting to realise the actions of one again with the knowledge of what is about to happen. I have asked this question when taking part in LADA’s DIY programmes on two separate occasions, once in a fight club for Kira O’Reilly and on another occasion when attempting to sleep on a British beach without shelter for Anne Bean’s 24 hours of chance. After which I found sand in more places than I ever thought possible.

Yet every single instance is without doubt worthwhile and has affected my life massively. Perhaps it is the nihilist in me, though I’d rather not see it that way, but if something doesn’t hurt, require a struggle to be born, would its impact be worth less?

It is often said of my performance work that I manage to create a space where my fragility and vulnerability is exposed. That exposure is something I am open to sharing and in the mode of performance one may, if they are fortunate, find a moment for this to be held. A place or time where the experiential may be reciprocally invested in together.

The act of putting on a festival can be equally exposing. Tempting Failure (TF) was something I created in 2012 but, as new people have joined me and some have moved on, it has become a framework for many voices. Some may see it as network or family, others may see just a logo, brand or company. At its heart, it is just run by three artists. Three people, who like most are slightly broken and dysfunctional in their own unique ways, but together - along with a few others when we get closer to a festival - are just trying to do their best for other artists. In fact, we don’t earn a living from it, we run it with love, passion and as much care as we can. Sometimes we get things right, other times we learn and grow, but we are no less exposed than when we perform and often this can be forgotten, no less by us than anyone else.

So when things are at their hardest and we want to give up, we remember that what we do does mean something, and that no matter how fragile we are left feeling, TF is totally worth all the effort. TF has created a place where we have enabled and facilitated hundreds of other artists to take risks, where they may do and say things that they cannot easily elsewhere and that together through a shared vulnerability we can create a space that holds us all.

Our fragility must be nurtured.

So for TF18, our artists were asked to respond to the provocation “Fractured Bodies.” A notion that I have written about elsewhere, but that came initially from an internal sense of personal strife through illness and injury over the past seven years which then began to echo with the wider sense of geographical, political and metaphorical separation of bodies around me.

Somehow, within the growth of fascism, conservatism and extremism in our lives and the mediatisation and bombardment of technology upon our self/s, there was a separation and othering - the familiar was estranged and made to feel different. As in my own life, fractures occurred in numerous ways, seen and unseen. Yet through these cracks there was a light.

Through each break, I have grown to know and (un)know myself; repeatedly relearning, surviving and forever becoming again.

Screaming into the void is no longer an answer. Societal bubbles must be confronted, challenged and burst. So, as a home for difficult artwork, TF18 will not be a festering place for regret, but a catalyst to voice both personal and wider issues that affect us all. With this in mind, I am delighted to highlight the following publications through our partnership with Unbound as resonant with the provocation for this year.

Exercises for Rebel Artists
Exercises for Rebel Artists
Guillermo Gómez-Peña and Roberto Sifuentes
£14.99 / Original Price £19.99
As a lecturer this is often a book I encourage students to work with in order to find exercises that activate. Guillermo Gómez-Peña is an artist TF is yet to work with, but with a sense of the Happening, this book guides you through ritual and games towards La Pocha Nostra infused Jams. Finding a sense of inquiry through practice and developing a pedagogy towards the politically activated body. Perfect for breaking the silence and bursting the social bubbles at TF18.

Anne Bean
£14.21 / Original Price £18.95
Anne Bean is a close friend. Since we met on that Norfolk beach for our DIY, we’ve stayed in contact and have been fortunate to work together at TF2016 and TF18. This book for me is the original and best example of an artist retracing, re/activating their previous works in an older body. It traces her work from 69-73 alongside her re-performance of the same pieces in 2005, all presented with beautifully captured photography. Ahead of her next seminal publication, I thoroughly encourage you to grab a copy of this book while you can.

The Incorrigibles

The Incorrigibles: Perspectives on Disability Visual Arts in the 20th and 21st Centuries
Eds. Adrian Plant and Tanya Raabe-Webber
£9.74 / Original Price £12.99
Two thirds of the TF core team identify as disabled due to mental health conditions and remaining third has had a life affected directly by the MH of those around them. So, it felt like TF18 was the year to start to strategize how we as a festival could embed processes of care within our programmes for artists and audiences. This book resonates strongly with our approach as it doesn’t attempt to make a publication just about disability arts but rather looks at who the artists are and becomes an integrated celebration of difference.

The Artists's Borderpanic Compendium

The Artist’s Borderpanic Compendium

Curated by Leslie Hill & Helen Paris
£7.50 / Original Price £10
We couldn’t do a Fractured Bodies infused festival without responding to Brexit. So for one night only on 17 July TF18 takes over a good ol’ English Pub with works by Robin Bale, Professor of Food Policy Tim Lang, The Palimpsisters, Uninvited Guests and punk band Oh The Guilt! This publication is your handy guide on creating a spontaneous response to the tragedy that is Brexit! Born out of Curious’ 2016 DIY, this compendium enables you to perform at a moment’s notice a selection of scores that may just help you survive! Or at the very least, focus your rage.


Many Headed Monster

The Many Headed Monster
Joshua Sofaer
Not only is this beautifully presented but it collates Joshua Sofaer’s lecture (along with presentational notes) that explores the role of activated spectator/participator. A position many of the audiences to TF18 will find themselves in when confronted by works that break boundaries, such as breast feeding (Lena Chen), BDSM (Lori Baldwin) or gender (Penelope Koliopoulou). The Many Headed Monster also holds within it 22 performances on DVD and 50 wonderful ‘artcards’ including the works of two of the artists TF18 is working with this year, Kira O’Reilly and Hermann Nitsch.

Please note: There is a limited quantity of The Many Headed Monster edition remaining.