Renaissance Goo

Renaissance Goo

A historian of the body and a soft matter scientist experiment with Renaissance personal care recipes

Failure as Research Method – Brief discussion report and brief bibliography

Reading Time: 2 minutes

 

Dutch 17th century painting of a man making a face after tasting something horrible from a bottle

Adriaen Brouwer, The Bitter Potion, c. 1636-38. Frankfurt: Staedel Museum.

As Adriaen Brouwer’s striking painting The Bitter Potion suggests, sometimes improvement takes a bit of suffering. Is the risk of failure the ‘bitter potion’ of remaking projects? The first recipe the Renaissance Goo project tried – for a mastic and olive oil sunscreen – did not work the way we expected it to, but we learnt an awful lot by doing the project –  both about ways of working, and about renaissance processes, recipes and the distance that can sometimes emerge between practice and text.

In February 2022, the Renaissance Goo discussion group discussed the importance of  embracing ‘failure’ in experimental remaking projects. Does failure mean the same thing in the humanities and the sciences?  What do our failures reveal (if anything) about early modern recipe culture? Whether something has ‘failed’ or not depends very much on the original purpose and aims of the experiment – and perhaps remaking can never really fail, as it always leads to a broader process of learning.  It seems that ‘failure’ is a central part of making, past and present.

Further reading on failure

Sven Dupré, ‘Doing it Wrong: The Translation of Artisanal Knowledge and the Codification of Error’, in Matteo Valleriani ed., The Structures of Practical Knowledge, Berlin: Springer, 2017: 167-188.

Sven Dupré, ‘Failure and the Imperfections of Artisanal Knowledge in the Early Modern Period’ in Annette Imhausen, Falk Müller, and Moritz Epple eds, Weak Knowledge: Forms, Functions, and Dynamics. Frankfurt and New York: Campus Verlag, 2020: 163-78.

Stuart Firestein, Failure: Why Science is so Successful (Oxford, 2015).

Lisa Lefeuvre,  Failure: Documents of Contemporary Art (MIT Press, 2010).

Many of the essays in the edition Secrets of Craft and Nature in Renaissance France. A Digital Critical Edition and English Translation of BnF Ms. Fr. 640, discuss failure including

Kremnitzer, Kathryn and Pamela H. Smith. “Imitation Rubies and Failure in Ms. Fr. 640.” In Secrets of Craft and Nature in Renaissance France. A Digital Critical Edition and English Translation of BnF Ms. Fr. 640, edited by Making and Knowing Project, Pamela H. Smith, Naomi Rosenkranz, Tianna Helena Uchacz, Tillmann Taape, Clément Godbarge, Sophie Pitman, Jenny Boulboullé, Joel Klein, Donna Bilak, Marc Smith, and Terry Catapano. New York: Making and Knowing Project, 2020. DOI: https://www.doi.org/10.7916/7qxw-2832

Bilak, Donna. “Making and Knowing Pedagogy.” In Secrets of Craft and Nature in Renaissance France. A Digital Critical Edition and English Translation of BnF Ms. Fr. 640, edited by Making and Knowing Project, Pamela H. Smith, Naomi Rosenkranz, Tianna Helena Uchacz, Tillmann Taape, Clément Godbarge, Sophie Pitman, Jenny Boulboullé, Joel Klein, Donna Bilak, Marc Smith, and Terry Catapano. New York: Making and Knowing Project, 2020. DOI: https://www.doi.org/10.7916/n0x6-j545

Carlson, Raymond and Jordan Katz. “Casting in Frames.” In Secrets of Craft and Nature in Renaissance France. A Digital Critical Edition and English Translation of BnF Ms. Fr. 640, edited by Making and Knowing Project, Pamela H. Smith, Naomi Rosenkranz, Tianna Helena Uchacz, Tillmann Taape, Clément Godbarge, Sophie Pitman, Jenny Boulboullé, Joel Klein, Donna Bilak, Marc Smith, and Terry Catapano. New York: Making and Knowing Project, 2020.DOI: https://www.doi.org/10.7916/jnkw-sa96

 

(https://sammlung.staedelmuseum.de/en/work/the-bitter-potion)

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