Gillian has created a pattern, cut and sewn a dress from paper. Adam has created ink using candles, gum arabic and water. Wearing the white paper dress and using a metal tea spoon, Gillian will transfer a number of full vials of ink, across her lap, into the same number of empty vials. The task is complete once all the ink has been transferred from one set of glass vials to the other. Each drop spilled represents a degree of failure, indelibly marked and recorded on the white paper.
We aim for the audience to consider failure as an essential factor in any skillful endeavour, and for them to reflect on whether failure is a qualitative condition (is the task an outright success or failure) or a quantitative variable (is the task both successful and a failure in varying degrees).
By their very presence, the audience will be recorded as variables in this performative experiment. Potentially the number of observers might influence the rate of failure or success; will the vibrations they cause create ripples in the ink? Is their very presence complicit in the failure or success?
Constants and Variables was developed for Tempting Failure (2014) and shown twice at Buzzcut (2015). Dresses from all iterations were exhibited as part of the exhibition Understanding the Ritual at The Storey Gallery (Lancaster) alongside a further performance in situ. The development of Constants and Variables was supported by Arts Council England, LICA (Lancaster) and Tramway (Glasgow)