Great Expectations

I’m going to see my brother play a rat in a school play tonight. I have no idea what it will be like, I have no expectations, not even of what my brother will be like, but in a way I like this. I like not knowing what to expect- it’s exciting.

I think sometimes we get too hung up on expectations. Expecting things to be bad, expecting things to be good, expecting shows to live up to their previous repertoire. Always expecting something, and yet never dreaming of just turning up and seeing what happens. People don’t like spontaneity anymore, nor do they like surprises. People like to know what to expect- naturally I am making a gross generalisation here, but it is a consensus that I am including myself in- we are a generation who like safety.

Building on this, people expect to be entertained. In this way we are putting huge amounts of pressure on the art industry to produce work that is good enough; that gains public and critical approval. There is no place for failure. Failure is something that marks a persons career, can put a huge metaphorical spanner in the works of an emerging artist’s work, so that they find it even more difficult in an increasingly competitive career to succeed. Or alternatively, can serve to discredit an established artist, sparking suggestions that they are past their creative prime.

Why are we so concerned with success? I doubt there is anyone who can say that every single minute of their life has been a success. Without failure how can we learn what works? We have nothing to learn from for the next time, nothing to teach younger generations not to do. We put pressure on ourselves to top ourselves over and over again. Unnecessary strain, because it is impossible to succeed all of the time.

Has it become a thing to measure someone’s artistic worth just on their successes? This post is pitted with questions, because unfortunately I do not have the answers. Indeed, I would like answers, but I fear there isn’t a straightforward, easy one. It is a mindset that has evolved over time, contributing to the growing competition for funding and audiences. What happened to experimentalism? If people don’t experiment with things, then how will they know they are contributing their best work? Failure cultivates creativity.

I want to see things that don’t work. I get bored seeing things that are too polished, even too successful, because I can’t identify with them. As a contemporary dance student I’m still trying to work out what my strengths are, what piques my interest and what areas I want to explore deeper. I make mistakes all the time, from a badly placed curve in technique, to a spelling mistake in an essay, mistakes and failures are built into my day. For every time I fail, my successes taste much sweeter. More appreciated, and hard won. I can expect to fail, so it is thus forth a surprise when I succeed. Success and failure are part of the learning circle. We try something, it fails, we tweak something, perhaps it will fails again, but we keep changing things until finally it succeeds. Sweet, hard earned success.

So this is my request, people should stop being so concerned with being successful 24/7. Embrace failure, for the creativity it promotes and the ruthless determination it evokes is much more beneficial. Failure = Success. Also stop expecting great things all the time, try to lighten up and enjoy the little surprises that life brings. And with this thought, I’m off to see my brother be a rat.

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