The Science Gallery’s new show – Fail better – is described as ‘A collection of inspirational failures’. The phrase ‘Fail better’ comes from Samuel Beckett’s characteristically difficult, characteristically glum late text Worstward Ho! (1983):
‘All of old. Nothing else ever. Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better’.
Three manuscript drafts of Worstward Ho!, belonging to the Library, have been loaned to the exhibition, which is curated by Jane ní Dhulchaointigh and Michael John Gorman, and which runs until 27 April next.
The Science Gallery show asks the question ‘Does failure drive innovation?’ It celebrates ‘inspirational and serendipitous’ failure in the development of work by designers, inventors and scientists. This is a utopian, even heroic view of failure, failure as a research tool, as a necessary part of an evolutionary process that, once learned from, will ultimately lead to success.
Other exhibits include Flann O’Brien’s hat and Christopher Reeve’s wheelchair. They have been selected by different individuals – including Anne Enright and Ranulph Fiennes – and each piece has a little essay, in the catalogue, to account for its inclusion in the show.
It takes a brave optimist – a scientist! – to put a positive spin on ‘Fail better’!