There is a Failing Man by Mocksim, one of the Yearly Print series: C-Type on aluminium, 1m by 2m, completed 11th September 2007

Rachel Lois Clapham, Live Art Uk:

'There is a Failing Man' is a digital print on aluminium made specifically by artist Micheál O'Connell to sell to an anonymous collector. The image itself is taken from a computer simulated animation of an upside-down picture of New York's Twin Towers in mid fall. The print is the second in a once-yearly series in which O'Connell moves the same animated image forward by just one-second then, on the 11 September, produces an abstract print that is 1m x 2m. The process sight sound beguiling, and the end product decorative and ultimately sellable, but it is a distinctly forward-thinking collector who buys There is a Failing Man. Far from being a representational, emotive and sincere fine art tribute to the Twin Towers, the work is part of O'Connell's open ended and potentially antagonistic artistic experiment. In There is a Failing Man O'Connell knowingly harnesses a global symbol of Terror and skews it through digital technology in order to mime the material form of a traditional art object while manipulating audience expectation for his polished, finished and static C-type print.

As audience our relationship to There is a Failing Man and by default to O'Connell is potentially antagonistic because the artist partakes in none of the emotiveness of his 9/11 subject, nor does he claim the Twin Towers as the main factor in the work. The print itself is equally ambiguous in its relationship to the Terroristic, both visually and in any conceivable underlying message. In addition, O'Connell's creative process for There is a Failing Man is as de-skilled, de-crafted and as fully automated as possible: he practises 'art by rote' or printing by computerised numbers in which technology serves as third party or mediator, distancing him, his human artistic touch and any inherent intended (terroristic) meaning away from the print.

The clear ambiguity of There is a Failing Man concerning the ubiquitous contemporary sensation that is the Twin Towers can be seen as political. In this sense, O'Connell switching off the built-in computerised visual perspective programme for his rendering of There is no Failing Man can also be seen as a political act; a salient comment on inherited hierarchical Western aspects of tradition, ideology and perspective that are embedded within our contemporary visual culture. There is a Failing Man then, becomes a space for both artist and audience to test what we are supposed to feel in the face of such a sensation 6 years after the event, but perhaps don't.

This open-ended examination of affect or perception– political and artistic - is key to O'Connell. This is why he deliberately and technologically abstracts; to evade direct visual clues and inherent meaning in There is a Failing Man. Instead O'Connell wants to subvert audience expectations of finality, meaning and artistic vision for this art-world object and orchestrate a more relational, interpolative character for the work; one in which you action and complete meaning as the viewer. In this way, O'Connell renders There is a Failing Man radically open to the risk of misrecognition. It is misrecognition by you, me, the collector who bought it and now has it hanging in his home, in which the 'failing man' in question could refer to the infamous Falling Man of 9/11, currently thought to be Jonathan Briley, but could equally be the failing - or falling - of humanity, or the failure of O'Connell himself, both as a man and as an artist.

Whatever it is or isn't about Time is certainly, and unusually for a print, at stake in this work. Just as O'Connell completed Some Buildings Die of Old Age on 11 September 2006, so too on 11 September 2007 the artist, irrespective of result, stopped what he was doing on that same freeze-framed animation of the twin towers and printed There is a Failing Man. This strict 365-day time factor ensures There is a Failing Man is not only performative of its own creation - it embodies its own process in and by its final manifestation- but also embodies the changes in technology, software and attitudes toward global politics that have occured in that period. It is solely this factor of Time, and its affects, that intervenes in O'Connell's controlled, repetitive system of making these prints to ensure There is a Failing Man is already very different in technique and critical reception, albeit not in look, from Some Buildings Die of Old Age, 2006.

It is also testament to the ephemeral or evental nature of There is a Failing Man that I am documenting the work here; an act of arts criticism or journalism that would otherwise be quite irregular for a single print by one artist. But what I'm feeling on this day, right here, in response to There is a Failing Man is just another layer in O'Connell's experiment in the affect of art. God Willing, O'Connell hopes to do – moreover sell - approximately 40-60 more prints, one every year for the rest of his life. O'Connell's impending death is perhaps the most fundamental -temporal- factor at stake in There is a Failing Man. If he succeeds in living this long there will be 40-60 more reviews to read, all very different, contrasting opinions, all grappling with how they feel - or don't- about what is essentially the same image. Which is exactly O'Connell's point.

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