VIENNAFAIR 2013 turns its curatorial focus toward Austria, to its rich traditions and histories and its contemporary Zeitgeist. A series of research activities, talks, specially commissioned artworks, and performances will attempt to capture – and then rip apart once again – the elusive relationship between art and the psychological and even ethical state known as happiness under the umbrella of the curatorial project called “The School of Happiness”. As the curse or blessing of psychoanalysis was born right here in Vienna, in this complex and complicated city, we want to celebrate it and the discipline itself with the kind gesture of rebellion: a shot of happy forced optimism and some bits of transatlantic positive psychology.
Referring to Dr. Freud, the pursuit of happiness within a civilization is impossible. Nevertheless, happiness is what civilization is eagerly striving for; “happiness studies“ is the hot subject that is being researched by some of the world’s most important universities – one nation, tiny Bhutan, has actually even made “Gross National Happiness” the central aim of its domestic policy. Happiness as the emotional or mental state of well-being, ranging from contentment to intense joy, optimism, and wholeheartedness. This emotional state depends on subjective perception: “only the limitations of our imagination get in the way of the grand quest of happiness” (Daniel Gilbert, Harvard University).
In the program of VIENNAFAIR different pursuits of happiness and alternative models of happiness in various countries shall be reviewed and discussed.
– How does happiness relate to the state of the artist and is happiness the ultimate goal?
– Can art be useful in the articulation and transformation of perception and self-experience in a very real way; can art be a tool in this time of economic turmoil and transformation of values?
In one experiment documented in her book The Myths of Happiness, Sonja Lyubomirsky, Professor at the University of California, Riverside, asked two volunteers at a time to use hand puppets to teach a lesson about friendship to an imaginary audience of children.
Afterward, the puppeteers were evaluated against one another: You did great but your partner did better, or you did bad but your partner was even worse.
The volunteers who were happy before the puppeteering review cared a bit about hearing that they had performed worse than their colleagues but largely shrugged it off. The unhappy volunteers were devastated. Sonja Lyubomirsky writes: “It appears that unhappy individuals have bought into the sardonic maxim attributed to US author and actor Gore Vidal: ‘For true happiness, it is not enough to be successful oneself. […] One’s friends must fail.’” This, Lyubomirsky says, is probably why a great number of people know the German word “Schadenfreude” (describing happiness at another’s misfortune) and almost nobody knows the Yiddish shep naches (happiness at another’s success).