I've had a terrible run of luck recently. Before two different shows, I've suddenly had a piece of hardware die on me.
The first one was a few weeks ago, my projector just wouldn't switch on. And I couldn't use any old projector as a replacement, it had to be a short throw with decent contrast ratio. Next, just two days ago, my laptop refused to login - this time just a few hours before the show was due to start. In both cases I had to cancel the show.
I was annoyed about my 'luck' on the days involved, but being skeptical about the idea of luck I'm determined to tighten up my practice to reduce the likelihood of being floored by similar problems in the future. The idiom that 'you make your own luck' appeals to me.
So where to start? The first obvious thing to think about is the extent to which I'm relying on technology as a whole. Having not experienced any crippling technology failures before, it was easy to avoid thinking about it until now. You plug things in and they work - generally. But it's time to realise that I don't have anything handmade I can pull out in replacement. The whole premise of my work relies on real-time processing. So technology failing is kind of a 'low risk high consequence' problem. It pays where possible to have work ready and tested on a backup computer, or other relevant backup hardware.
A couple of years ago I went to a Rafael Lozano-Hemmer show in London. All of the exhibits relied heavily on realtime technology, and when we arrived, two of the exhibits weren't working at all. Before we left the technicians had repaired one of them, but I found out that this had happened several times throughout the exhibition. Lozano Hemmer is a well-practised international artist and a big name. If this is a serious problem for him, then this is a serious problem.
This is the next thing to think about. The more technology involved the higher the likelihood of something failing at some point in time. It isn't always possible to carry two projectors and two laptops (and two of each animal) around the globe in case one of them fails. But if I carry two laptops, I should take the reasonable amount of time to make sure the software runs correctly on both, and I should do this in advance. This wouldn't eliminate the risk but it would reduce it significantly. If I had done this a week ago, I would have been able to salvage the second one of my shows.
There's a lot of 'should' in that last paragraph, and I think everybody knows how much easier it is to preach backups and redundancy than it is to follow through. But writing this post is part of an attempt to increase the value and importance of these practices in my mind. A little while down the road I suspect I'll be returning to this post and reflecting on whether or not things worked out.