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April 5, 2012



Above, part of Stefan Sagmeister's new exhibition, "The Happy Show," which opened yesterday at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia.

Below, excerpts from Randy Kennedy's story in yesterday's New York Times about how the show came to be.

The quest for happiness has been the direct or indirect subject of a huge chunk of intellectual endeavor: philosophy, theology, psychology, economics and, of course, literature, which has tended to cast a jaundiced eye on the matter. "To be stupid and selfish and to have good health are the three requirements for happiness," Flaubert wrote, "though if stupidity is lacking, the others are useless."

The world of design aims ultimately at happiness, too, through the elegance of a font or the feel of an iPhone. But a few years ago the Austrian-born graphic designer Stefan Sagmeister decided to take on the problem of happiness more directly, in much the same way he has approached ad campaigns and the celebrated album covers he has designed for David Byrne and the Rolling Stones.

He started to work... on an ambitious, unusual feature-length documentary, "The Happy Film," a kind of delivery vehicle for several  years of thinking and reading about the nature of happiness. The film is not yet finished, but it has spun off an equally unusual art — or maybe design, or maybe amateur sociology — exhibition, "The Happy Show."

The conclusion he reached was that the three most widely agreed-upon routes to happiness were meditation, cognitive behavioral therapy and psychotropic drugs. He decided to spend a considerable amount of time testing each on himself, while filming the process.

"The question I wanted to answer was, could I train my mind to be happy, the same way one trains one’s body?" he said. "In running, I know that I can train as much as I want and I'm never going to break the world record for the five miles. It's partly genetics; I'm just not built for it. But if I worked really hard, I might be able to cut my time by half. Could I do the same thing with my mind and my well-being?"

The Philadelphia exhibition, which features an extended trailer for the film and a virtual funhouse of didactic interactive displays, functions much less like a design show than like an three-dimensional glimpse into Mr. Sagmeister's travels in self-improvement.

Mr. Sagmeister… is willing to report, midresearch, that therapy seems much more effective than meditation in increasing overall happiness. But he will soon begin the final phase of the film — drugs — so the verdict is still out. The pharmaceuticals will probably be by prescription.

[Photo up top by Ryan Collerd]

April 5, 2012 at 10:01 AM | Permalink


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Yet another good mind-stretching post. BTW I loved the 10th dimension one the other day. I'm just giving you some "props". :)

Posted by: Stace | Apr 5, 2012 11:43:21 AM

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