The Happy Show
November 28-March 9, 2014
After years of teaching continental philosophy and parcing out the world of art and culture as a rogue editor at interntional print and online publications, I am thrilled to highly recommend Sagmeister's exhibition. In this exhibition, Happiness, a topic of philosophical debate as well as material culture, is subjected to what some might call a "Nauman" treatment of sorts. While I reserve a final analysis for after I see for myself in January, I can't help but think of Foucault and de Certeau:
“ The media transforms the great silence of things into its opposite. Formerly constituting a secret, the real now talks constantly. News reports, information, statistics, and surveys are everywhere” – Michel de Certeau
"The work of an intellectual is not to mould the political will of others; it is, through the analyses that he does in his own field, to re-examine evidence and assumptions, to shake up habitual ways of working and thinking, to dissipate conventional familiarities, to re-evaluate rules and institutions and to participate in the formation of a political will (where he has his role as citizen to play)" Michel Foucault
(see gallery description below)
From this November 28 to March 9 at the Gaîté lyrique, Stefan Sagmeister will be showcasing his graphic universe, in all its playfulness and humor, throughout an exhibition devoted to exploring the pursuit of happiness, or more precisely, the pursuit of his own happiness. Stefan tells us "I am not a scientist or expert, but I'm a world expert on my own happiness so I'm the person most qualified to talk about it!"
The Happy Show originally started out as a film project. Begun four years ago, The Happy Film follows the adventures of Sagmeister in his quest for happiness through three different methods: meditation, drugs, and cognitive therapy. Excerpts from this film, which is still shooting, will be screened as part of the exhibition. Far from wanting to impose on us his happiness or provide us with a miracle recipe, the artist seeks above all to share his experiences. You never know, they could prove useful to more than one... Take advantage of the moment, he seems to whisper in our ear throughout The Happy Show, where everywhere, from the restroom to the stairs, he came to write on the walls to guide us, to make us smile and think. Feel free to wander through the maze of this exhibition he wanted to be as swarming as it is multifaceted, as intelligent as it is entertaining, in the same spirit as all his productions.
Why not start out by offering yourself the pleasure of taking a card from a weird kind of dispenser! It will give you a mission to accomplish during the exhibition – to remove a shoe, speak with an accent, pretend to be the designer, sing, etc.—and, who knows? That could very well be a small step in the great pursuit of happiness that Sagmeister is inviting us to join.
Long live statistics!
Stefan Sagmeister has long kept statistical studies on his bedside table, along with psychological analyses or anthropological studies on happiness. With no intention whatsoever to improvise the part of a scientist, the artist drew a huge mural in which each all of us can locate ourselves. Man or woman, young or old, single or a couple, sexually active or not, believer or atheist, management or employee, here or elsewhere, twenty-one meters of graphics in yellow, white and black offer us the opportunity to measure our propensity for happiness. Can science, given the specifics of our environment, calculate our level of well-being? Can happiness be quantified in the same way as wealth? Does being rich make you happy? Sagmeister could not ignore that commonly held belief and the artist seems to show us that money does buy happiness ... but only up to a point.
The body in pursuit
It's good to keep in mind that in the work of Stefan Sagmeister, metaphors are experienced as much as they are read. For this fan of running, there was no way he way he was going to leave the body out of the pursuit of happiness. The quest for happiness is also an endurance sport.
And like any sport, it has its exercises and its training sessions. A bicycle awaits those who are willing to give of themselves to achieve a maxim that the designer seeks to apply to his own life in order to optimize his level of satisfaction. The electricity produced by the strength of the calf muscle light up neon colored letters. To decrypt the message, all you need to do is pedal! Throughout your stroll through the exhibit, the artist keeps inviting you to participate: draw your symbol of happiness and place it in the yellow box provided for that very purpose, pass back and forth in front of a spider web that will deliver a message, wisely choose your seat at the table of happiness and smile as much as you can with piles of sugar cubes that will return the favor... Smile, are you happy?
Stefan Sagmeister has been writing in a journal since childhood. He is fascinated by letters, words, sentences, and lists of things to do. Somewhat surprising for a typographer, except that all these notes written on a daily basis by Stefan are recycled by Sagmeister. His concept of graphic design is such that he draws from his daily experiences and sensations to inspire his professional work. The pursuit of happiness thus became, in addition to a personal objective, a driving force in his work, which he is constantly pulling in the direction of poetry, imagination and joy, never forgetting the effectiveness of this theme.
Just like a logbook that unfolds, The Happy Show is like diving into both his graphic work and his personal preoccupations.
Phrases and images shown here are born out of the artist's day-to-day life, and the videos and series of photographs immortalize his often short-lived typefaces. Make the first step, Drugs are fun in the beginning but become a drag later on, Trying to look good limits my life, Assuming is stifling, Don’t expect people to change, If I don’t ask, I won’t get… The lines that guide Sagmeister towards happiness are drawn on land and in the air, on water or on skin, with candy, bamboo, bananas, coffee, eggs, flowers, and many more materials modeled and handled with a freedom and fluidity that make his world both beautiful and within everyone's reach.
The me in all this
With due diligence as the narrator of the show, Sagmeister cleverly reveals himself throughout The Happy Show: enough so that we identify with him, but also leaving us enough room to make his quest our own. His writings run across the walls and his face appears on several occasions. He is alternately seen as sad, happy, worried, naked or clothed, as a vacationer or a speaker, eating, walking... He likes to take the stage and goes so far as to exhibit deliciously vintage black-and-white photos of his ancestors. Again, this is not gratuitous, and it questions his pursuit of happiness.
Indeed, some coincidences about the history of his family and his name were unsettling to him. What about you, what do you have to say? Is there a form of determinism in our surnames? Are we happier when the first name of our spouse sounds like our own? When our name has a link to our profession? His amazing genealogical observations will intrigue more than one person.
For more information please visit: Gaîté lyrique