dot 8: success and failure


My answer to the above question was to exhibit work at the Dak’Art Biennale. The Dak’Art Biennale is held bi-annually in Senegal (West Africa) and is the only art Biennale on the African continent.  Only 5 or so visual artists are selected to represent their country. I was selected in 2008. It was a great moment for me, an achievement that I had anticipated for a number of years. However, I could not have anticipated the after-effects of this pinnacle. After returning from Dak’Art 2008 I started feeling lost and struggled to gain my foothold again. This unanticipated space left me feeling confused and anxious. Why was this?

The writer, Elizabeth Gilbert, has just answered that for me. According to Gilbert, there is a strong correlation between great failure and great success. Both of these intense experiences can catapult you away from yourself. The danger is that you can get lost in the hinterland of the psyche as the subconscious can only evaluate the distance from where you’ve been flying from yourself. Another way of saying this would be, as  Marshall Vian Summers says, ‘To know where we are going, we need to know where we have been.’ Even though I knew I had somehow lost my pathway coming back from a successful Dak’Art, that didn’t necessarily mean that I knew where to go from there, nor did I have a clue as to restore my previous sense of creative self.

Self-restoration, Gilbert says, means understanding what ‘home’ is. An interesting idea don’t you think? But how do you know what your home is? Gilbert points towards whatever you love more than yourself: that is what home is, where you ‘rightfully live.’ So practically, what does this entail? To self-restore, Gilbert says, is to:

Identify the best, worthiest thing and then build yourself on top of it. Fight yourself home: fight with diligence, respect … whatever it takes. Keep doing it again and again.

 Thank you Elizabeth Gilbert.


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