EPIC FAIL – 2015 Faculty Exhibition 10/28 – 11/13

Still from video by Azin Seraj, detail with added title, 2015.

The Fall 2015 UC Berkeley Department of Art Practice Faculty Exhibition

Kwame Braun, Allan deSouza, Michael Hall, Randy Hussong, Sahar Khoury, Chris Kubick, John McNamara, Indira Martina Morre, Craig Nagasawa, Greg Niemeyer, James Sterling Pitt, Elise Putnam, Brody Reiman, Erik Scollon, Stacy Jo Scott, Azin Seraj, Katherine Sherwood, Stephanie Syjuco

Wednesday, October 28th – Friday, November 13th, 2015
Opening Reception: Wednesday, October 28th, 4 – 7pm

EPIC FAIL Artist Talks: Wednesday, November 4th, 12 – 1pm

Worth Ryder Art Gallery, 116 Kroeber Hall, UC Berkeley Campus
Gallery Hours: Tuesday through Saturday, 12 – 5 pm
Free, Accessible, and Open to the Public


EPIC FAIL – The Fall 2015 UC Berkeley Department of Art Practice Faculty Exhibition is a show about the role of mistakes, chance, and criticality in the artmaking process. Although the artists in the exhibition have been discussing this theme since early summer, the works on display were not necessarily created with this exhibition in mind. Yet the theme is addressed by each of these works for the simple fact that failure is an integral part of the artmaking process, one that should be celebrated as a source of insight and liberation.

The concept of failure is particularly fraught at an institution that prides itself on its eminent success, boasting to be the top public school in the world. Yet, for the most part, the way that success and failure are determined goes unchallenged. The definition of success provided by society seems rather suspect, being that we are refusing to face potentially devastating ecological, economic, technological and cultural crises. Yet at the same time we are obsessed with grades, standardized test scores, job evaluations, income, credit scores, and social media “likes” – success as judged by manufactured rubrics that are used as substitutes for a profound and profoundly challenging self-evaluation based on our personal values, priorities, and histories.

Artmaking offers an alternative to these artificial rubrics, one that is earned only through hard-earned self awareness, risk-taking, and independent thought. The thesis of this exhibition is that the varied working methodologies pursued by these artists, the models of creative production they have developed, and the insights they have gained have much to offer a society hellbent on its own EPIC FAIL.

“Perhaps the most approachable instance of failure in artmaking is the classic example of chance in markmaking. If the drips, the wandering lines, the misregistrations, the miscommunications, and the glitches are embraced by the artist, are they still mistakes? Does a successful piece succeed despite such failures, or are the failures a part of the success? How do artists incorporate these things into their process? Do they seek to avoid it? Do they tolerate it? Do they celebrate it?

“How do artists judge whether something in their work is a ‘happy accident’, or an unwanted mistake? What does this say about how artists evaluate their own work? What do they do with work they deem a failure?

“Learning from failure – how does judging something as a mistake relate to the process of building skills in a certain medium or mode of artmaking? What about true mistakes in judgement, i.e. a piece, finished or not, that was a step down a road the artist decided not to take, an engagement that failed, a decision that they would like to unmake? What did the artist learn from this process?

“Failure as subject – i.e. work that addresses mistakes individuals or our greater society is making. What is the difference between an unintentional mistake and a pattern of failure that is ethically problematic, and how are these to be judged and addressed differently? How does this relate to an artist’s critical voice?

“We often use the word ‘accident’ to mean something that was unintentionally done wrong. What about things that were done purposefully that were later deemed wrong? How does the concept of the mistake relate to intentionality?

“How do people make up for their failures?

“As a mode of thought and being in the world, is artmaking unique in the way it incorporates mistakes, chance and error? At what point does a failure cease being a peripheral part of the process, and start being an EPIC FAIL?”

– from the Director’s original informal email to the faculty, June, 2015.

John McNamara, “Untitled (The Showoff and the Introvert)”, 48″ x 40″, 2015.


Please join us for an Opening Reception from 4 – 7 pm on Wednesday, October 28th, 2015.

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