Failure to Thrive


April 20 – May 18

SITE Sharp Gallery


Contributing Artists

Ray Madrigal

Exhibition Statement as Preserved in the SUGS/SITE Archives:

“Under certain circumstances failing, losing, forgetting, unmaking, undoing, unbecoming, not knowing may in fact offer more creative, more cooperative, more surprising ways of being in the world. Failing is something queers do and have always done exceptionally well. […] In fact, if success requires so much effort, then maybe failure is easier in the long run and offers different kinds of rewards.”
Judith Halberstam, The Queer Art of Failure


Objects are us.
We use objects to signal identity.
What we eat, drink, wear, drive, and touch is what we are.
Objects find their value in “working”, whether their function is to nourish, entertain,
please, signal, support, or simply sit and look pretty.
Objects lose their value in “not working”.
I have a lot of sympathy, and sometimes love, for objects that do not work. I hope that if
I can demonstrate kindness or understanding to a broken, non-functional, strange object,
I can encourage others to do the same.
If we can tolerate (dare I say love?) dysfunctional, “failed” objects, maybe we can
tolerate (dare I say love?) dysfunctional, “failed” people.
I have dedicated my two-plus decades of life to making objects that “don’t work”– you cannot eat my paintings, or live in my sculptures, or take my video as literal medicine, or use my writing to directly pay rent. My creations, in their lack of practical function, fail before they’re even born. This brings me much shame.
But here I am, fed by painting. Sheltered by making. Soothed by performing. Enriched by writing. I make them despite the shame. I don’t think I will stop.


There is some peace, some power, in knowing that an object “doesn’t work” and finding
joy in it anyway. Acting without use soothes me, gives me permission to be useless, to
All things should have a right to exist without use.
That last statement feels too bold and too certain to be true, and I fli nch as I wait for retaliation. I’m trying the thought out anyway.
If it is useless, so be it.


Failure To Thrive is a gathering place for my works, which fail practically even if they succeed formally. The assembly is made in the hopes that in displaying my shame, others can feel more comfortable with their own. I am convinced that, left alone, our shame corrodes inside of us. Aired out among others, it is transmuted into community and self compassion.


Failure is a concern for all artists, and all citizens – individually and globally, projects fail, be they a painting or a social institution.
Failure is especially a concern for those who are not included in the language of success spoken by western, white-oriented capitalism. Failure is inevitable for someone who is fundamentally excluded from the language of achievement – a language of heterosexual, cisgendered, thin, white, able-bodied, and capitalistic success.


At their simplest, the failed objects I reflect on when creating make me laugh. At their most complex, they challenge me to redefine success, to worldbuild, to reimagine parameters. They make me ask how I know when something has failed, whose eyes I’m looking through when I pity something. Whose definitions of failure and success have I internalized? How will I know if I’ve won? Are winners and losers even functional categories anymore, when we are running a race with no finish line?


Failure To Thrive does not claim to have answers. The show’s goal is not to assert itself as a new metric for success. It hopes only to carve out a space, a moment, in which we can enjoy what communal failure has to offer: a chance for relief, compassion, and a new kind of optimism.”


Failure to Thrive Performance Series

April 25 – April 28, 12:00-2:00 PM

Monday, Ari Karafiol, We All Know How This One Goes!

Tuesday, Charlie Thornton, Stitch/the beauty of the line

Wednesday, Steve Emrich, omnion

Thursday, Rose Bettridge, Art School, Clown School, School Schmool

Sharp Gallery

Exhibition Material


Email SITE Directors:




SITE Sharp Gallery
37 S. Wabash Ave.
Chicago, IL, 60603

SITE 280 Gallery
280 S. Columbus Drive
Chicago, IL, 60603



Gallery Hours (during exhibitions)
Monday – Friday 11am – 6pm

Saturday 11am – 3pm