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Common Reading 2023: Images of Failure by Xawery Stańczyk

Images of Failure — Xawery Stańczyk

"Images of Failure" displays several photos and artworks that are meant to represent the "art of failure" and examines what "art of failure" means.

Original Text Link

Discussion Questions

  1. Choose one of the images in this text to examine. How does that picture make you feel? How do you think it represents failure?

  1.  Do you think the images in this text depict a more “realistic” view of the world than photographs that are perfectly shot?

  1. If you took these photos, would you delete them? Why or why not?

Class Activity

Try to take your own image of failure. You can use your smartphone, Polaroid camera, laptop, or a disposable camera.

Introduction — Angelica M. Ramos-Santa

I remember being told, growing up, to watch and learn from the mistakes of those around me. I was not a rule-breaking child, nor was I a rule-bending child. The very thought of doing something outside of the “rules” gave me such intense anxiety that I would “tattle-tale” on myself, only to find out that I hadn’t done anything wrong at all.

Failure often fosters this feeling of wrongness and fear for those of us who haven’t yet learned that is not always the case. It took me years to learn that the mistakes I was told to learn from weren’t mistakes for everyone—some of those mistakes were choices labeled as “failures” by people who felt entitled to judge those choices. In the reading by Xawery Stańczyk, they question failure through the lens of art in a tone that is accepting: They look at failure as though in an art gallery, trying to find the message hidden within the work. I hope this reading leaves you with these questions: Is failure a necessary part of the art making process? If art imitates life, then is failure a necessary part of life making?

Additional Resources

Shooting Challenge: Fail

Check out this gallery for more examples of "images of failure."

About the Author

Xawery Stańczyk is a researcher, editor, writer, and poet. He obtained his M.A. in cultural studies (2009) as well as a Ph.D. (2015) from the Institute of Polish Culture, University of Warsaw, and an M.A. in sociology (2012) from the Institute of Applied Social Sciences, University of Warsaw. In 2017–2019. His main fields of interest include youth culture, popular music, visual arts, social movements, and public spaces in socialist and post-socialist Eastern Europe.


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