This issue of ARCADE was originally conceived as the last in a series that loosely explores seemingly disparate forces that come together to make something unexpected.
Our approach was to set up an opposition with piety, order, rules and, by implication, timidity on one side and rebellion, ambiguity, tension, uncertainty and bravery on the other.
We took a cue from the great outsider architect Bruce Goff. It has been noted that he sometimes achieved “dreadful results” because, like any great artist, he “was not afraid to fail.” We found the phrase “not afraid to fail” exhilarating. Failure is scary territory and gets at the heart of what we seek to explore in this issue: the role of risk in creative pursuits.
To take risks is difficult right now. The design professions are weighted down with the contradictory tasks of building things while at the same time saving an environment that we have contributed mightily to degrading. Is the concept of rebellious, experimental design somehow immoral in this dire climate, or must we take risks, both technical and aesthetic, to overcome the forces that threaten to pull everything down?
The idea of experimentation and risk also goes straight to the question of the relevance of design, the role of emotion in architecture and the designer’s obligation to reflect the complexity of modern life while creating responsible yet ambiguous and surprising results.
But risk is not exclusive to the design professions, nor is courage, innovation and revolt against the status quo. In inviting politicians, chefs, performers, educators and writers as well as urbanists, artists and architects to contribute to this issue of ARCADE, we hoped to get at the core of creative bravery, why it matters and why it’s worth it. Our contributors have taken the concept to a broader, richer place, telling stories of emotional, financial, political and sometimes even physical risk. It turns out risk is personal. A vision emerges of two faces of risk: serious, calculated risk taken in order to reach a higher goal, and joyous, frivolous chances taken for the sheer thrill of it. Most of our contributors embrace one kind or the other, and sometimes, both. The common thread is the wholehearted endorsement of making the leap, taking the chance, going out on that limb, no matter what the motivation.
It is fitting that this is the last issue before ARCADE’s 30th birthday celebration year. 30 is mature, grown-up. 29 is dangerous.