Failing amidst an army

In conversation with a dear friend recently, she was describing the desire to fail more, which to me sounds like the reciprocal impulse of bravery, a position that makes risk-taking possible. The future may come as we imagine it, or it may come otherwise, but there is only life as it is already if we do nothing. I was reminded of our conversation as I read through the final episode of Juliana Spahr and David Buuck’s An Army of Lovers (2013). Set in five parts, each perhaps related to the others, the central characters wonder at the futility of artistic creation, knowing that music cannot cure disease, that poetry cannot stop the warming of the climate and that performance art cannot end the practice of torture. The book ends with a glorious, extended call to act none-the-less, specifically in collaboration, despite the fact that circumstances may remain unchanged—because in the acting there is an electricity that is transmitted amongst us.

“We want art that makes us wet and driven, driven to flail and whelp and court failures in our impulse to action, again and again, failing with ever more grace and cunning, until futility becomes the magic that when dissolved beneath the tongue of all those ready to bark leads to ever more fruitful inquiries, for our bodies are bored by answers, which is why we wish to striate and rejuvenate the questions, even if in our questioning some of us are led to then ask how might we refuse this, refuse all of this” (139).

And I was reminded of my dear friend and how much I want to fail with her again. That thing between us is its own kind of life, and we can tend to that as a political gesture, encouraging each other to believe that music or poetry or performance can come to bear on the world outside of our intimate connection. Even if it can’t. Or, not in the ways we imagine it.


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