This essay is a critical analysis, interpretation and assessment of the feature “Scheitern ist. Eine Bestandsaufnahme”(2016), by the German artist Rilo Chmielorz,which explores failure as a taboo subject in neoliberal societies that worship the ideology of success and progress.

This study deconstructs this unique feature to its various parts and looks at the feature as a whole in terms of the concept of “polyphonic narration” that the Russian literature and art scholar and theorist Mikhail Bakhtin (1895-1975) derived from the poetics of the Russian writer Fyodor Dostoevsky (1821-1881). It shows how the level of content (life stories of failure, experts for failure), the level of narration (recurring themes, etymology, radiophonic sign systems), the level of intimacy (technological and performative) and the theoretical dimension of polyphonic narration are organically interwoven with each other. The author suggests that Chmielorz has found the ideal form for artistically scrutinising the taboo subject of failure and thus revealing its existential dimension, its relativity and last but not least, its liberating potential.

The polyphonic character of this feature, with its predominant use of original sound recordings and its skilful artistic handling, justifies calling this feature a collage rather than a montage. The author locates Chmielorz’s radiophonic art work in the German tradition of the artistic feature established by predecessors such as Peter Leonhard Braun, Alfred Andersch, Ernst Schnabel, Arno Schirokauer and Friedrich Bischoff.