How Do You Measure Success?

Unlikely Parallels Blossom into Understanding

Marquez T Woods August 23rd, 2021

At what point do you consider your work a success?


Questions like this are much closer to the heart after creating, producing & experiencing Explicit Exhibit alongside @spicymamii_ & @thedirectorformallyknownasg.


After months of planning, hard decisions, strained relationships, and long nights of burning the candle at both ends, we'd reached the crescendo moment - where everything finally came to life.


And it was beautiful. It was our sexy Frankenstein of collaboration and execution.


With a two-month-long lead-up of campaign videos like the one below, we were able to inspire and intrigue. The week-long exhibition held various interactive programming. We seemed to find the perfect balance of engaging workshops and negative space to support the artwork's natural pull.

Video by explicitexhibit_.mp4

Directed, Shot, Edited by @thedirectorformallyknownasg

Still, I was having a tough time understanding whether it was a success or not.


I dug through our budget and analytics. I devised improvements, feedback campaigns, and of course, ignored everyone's positive feedback - as is customary for someone conditioned to find the weak points in their work.


In my reflection, I recalled an installation I attended back in June. One that seemed to be Instagram fodder at the time - visually perpendicular to my most recent creative thrust (pun intended).


At L.E.A.F., dozens of floral sculptures lined the meatpacking district - many of which recreating the iconic structures of NYC.

Photographed by Caroline Tompkins

I’d seen floral sculptures before... What was different here was, the curators encouraged destruction. I’d only been immersed in the art for a moment before I’d noticed people carrying bouquets of exotic flowers.


At first, I thought it was a strange coincidence. I imagined a guy spending hundreds on exotic flowers to win back an unrequited love only to realize he might've gotten away with sneakily plucking a few on his way. But that guy wouldn’t have had to sneak. Guides were encouraging people to pick flowers from the massive assemblies.


There was something pure about this. Some jumped to the tallest structures to pick the most vibrant flowers, either for themselves or their counterparts. Some reveled in the wonder and appreciated the instagrammable moment, though perhaps losing full interactivity through their camera. And there were people like myself who picked a few to tie into my makeshift lapel and stick behind my ear.

Photographed by Caroline Tompkins

What I didn't know was some artists had not agreed to participate in the communal dissection of their work.


Some of the sponsoring florists hadn't intended on giving away their blossoms so hastily. Clearly, I was not the only one who did not receive that message.


It seemed, in my walk down the sculpture-lined road, there had been a devolution. Modesty dwindled, and greed took over. I saw pupils dilate in the mad dash toward the exotic and obviously expensive plants. People metamorphosed from their gentle larval states to rabid insects primally driven to the nectar of beauty.


Last-ditch efforts from the flower shop representatives tried to protect the sculptures, but it was no use. As soon as their line of sight broke, the people swarmed. I pitied the artists, being pitted between the people's hunger for beauty and the physical longevity of their artwork.


This installation's impact radiated out through NYC, though the structures laid bare. The people were pollinating their next environment with joy. They took the art with them in their hair and their hands.


At that moment, I understood what it meant to be a successful artist, creator, producer, whatever. It was all sacrificial.


It was all an offering - a vulnerability we must tribute without fear or preservation. And we can't control anything beyond that.


Those flower guardians at L.E.A.F. stood between what they wanted the experience to be and what it was. But to be successful, you must relinquish the expectation, even as early as conception.


It had always been about letting go - presenting the most authentic specimen in your work and allowing the world to dissect you.


Like a world-renowned chef, you put your all into every plate.


Despite knowing your may recipe may never be perceived the way, it was created to be.

Knowing It may never be tasted by a refined enough palette.

And if it was the perfect dish, it may never be duplicated.


Still, you return to the kitchen -to the process.


To continue to cross that ever-present threshold and transcend from imagination into reality.

And to be at peace with the uncertainty and to make yourself vulnerable anyway. That's the finish line. That's success.


Explicit was our fruit - our bouquet from which we encouraged consumption.


And when you lead with that fearlessness -that confidence in the unknown, it radiates.


Artists let their brilliant minds spill into their respective mediums.

Vendors lay their life's work out for guests to peruse.

DJs and musicians let it all fly.

Panelists told their truths.


People were introduced to a form of intimacy that they hadn't considered, and if they did, they felt it taboo. But they saw the intentionality. The control. The relinquishment of control.


And that... That's a beautiful parallel.


So, I don’t know exactly how to quantify success. But I do know, that the more I think about it the less I'm thinking about the next thing. And that's a sure-fire way to fail.