FAILE

FAILE (Pronounced "fail") is a Brooklyn-based artistic collaboration between Patrick McNeil (born 1975, Edmonton, Alberta) and Patrick Miller (born 1976, Minneapolis, Minnesota). Since its inception in 1999, FAILE has been known for a wide ranging multimedia practice recognizable for its explorations of duality through a fragmented style of appropriation and collage. While painting and printmaking remain central to their approach, over the past decade FAILE has adapted its signature mass culture-driven iconography to vast array of materials and techniques, from wooden boxes and window pallets to more traditional canvas, prints, sculptures, stencils, installation, and prayer wheels. FAILE's work is constructed from found visual imagery, and blurs the line between “high” and “low” culture, but recent exhibitions demonstrate an emphasis on audience participation, a critique of consumerism, and the incorporation of religious media, architecture, and site-specific/archival research into their work.





 McNeil and Miller met during their youth in Arizona. Separated in 1996 when Miller remained in art school in Minneapolis and McNeil continued to New York, by the end of the decade, the duo reconnected and, with the addition of then filmmaker Aiko Nakagawa (born 1975, Tokyo, JP), “A Life” was conceived. By early 2000, the trio contributed to the emergence of a nascent street art culture by circulating their screenprinted and painted work on city streets, usually using the subversive processes of wheatpasting (flyposting) and stenciling. During the ensuing years McNeil, Miller, and Nakagawa solidified both their omnivorous style of pop-cultural collage, and changed their name to FAILE (an anagram of A Life). Nakagawa left FAILE in 2006, gaining success in her own right as Lady Aiko, while McNeil and Miller continued on to increased commercial and institutional visibility.






 FAILE, like many of their contemporaries in the street art community, emphasize art making over indirect political statements or sloganeering, but their work often contains both passive and overt messages, usually cloaked in ambivalence. On the one hand, FAILE emerged from a graphic design sensibility and historically functions as a recognizable graphic presence as well as an artistic identity. Similarly, graffiti and street art have typically operated as a counterpublic artistic practice and means of garnering fame or status for “writers” and artmakers. While there is not an explicitly partisan or anti-capitalist edge to this type of work, it is structurally a political act in its flouting of laws, embrace of punk-rock and hip-hop aesthetics, and function as a means of populist or direct to the masses expression. There also exists in graffiti and street art a deeper anti-establishment trend in its attempt to beautify and reclaim the urban environment, and blur the line between the elite art gallery systems and the “outside” world of the streets.







 FAILE certainly works in this tradition. Although they are not graffiti writers as such, their work originated in the streets, and their studio work bears the stylistic hallmarks of both wheatpasting/stenciling and the vernacular of the global urban environment. FAILE argues that, “our process has always resembled this loose and fast critique on society, whether it be literal or figurative. Our image-making has at times been very methodical and researched, other times it's been experimental and dirty. Street art at its roots is ‘punk.’ It set out to critique and comment on a world it felt outside of.” Such a critique is sometimes ambivalent, as FAILE’s work is marked by the consistent juxtaposition of dualities. Other times, it is more direct, as in the seemingly explicit pictures in the Lost in Glimmering Shadows exhibition, or in the public wheatpasting in 2010 of images of kissing women amid the text “No Change Will My Heart Fear.” The latter echoes the ambivalent prompting of Banksy’s noted “Kissing Coppers” wall painting, and is indicative of FAILE's consistent prioritization of ambivalence and open-endedness over more explicitly prescriptiveness.





There are both socially and institution-critical strands in FAILE's work and its public or alternative-space staging and execution. FAILE's work is overarchingly characterized by an open approach that allows the interpretation and meaning of their work to ramify once it enters the public sphere. Of their outdoor work, FAILE argues that "it gives a person the sense that it is there just for them. That they've stumbled across this great little gem amidst the chaos of daily life that can really speak to them. We try to build in a certain ambiguity that leaves the door open for the viewer to find themselves within the story."The openness of meaning and emphasis on the experience of the viewer marks a shared affinity with both the anti-elitist impulses of recent street art,and the more institutional ideas of site specificity and relational aesthetics. In 2010, FAILE expanded their painting and printing into the realm of reconstructed sculptural and architectural elements, religious artifacts (such as prayer wheels) and the 2010 Temple project in Lisbon. These projects reflect FAILE’s concern that “everything that requires skill is disappearing from the world,” and that the Temple is “an expression of the crumbling beauty of this disappearing world.” This focus on public works was further developed in 2012 with the Eat With the Wolf sculpture in Ulaanbaatar; on the streets of Brooklyn with the 104 N. 7th tiling project, the latter of which built on FAILE's work in Lisbon, and histories of Mexican muralmaking and American abstraction; and in Times Square, Manhattan, with the large-scale, interactive prayer wheel in Wishing on You.Wikipedia





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