Happening in and around the White Cube this week: Our Happy Life
In May, after school had ended, I spent my time drawing and listening to podcasts, waiting to leave for my long awaited trip to visit a friend in Vienna. One of the very few times I got out of the house was to see Our Happy Life: Architecture and Well-Being in the Age of Emotional Capitalism at the Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA). The exhibition has stuck in my mind ever since, and after recently revisiting, I’ve decided this is one of the best shows I’ve seen to date.
Categorized into small segments, the exhibition is concerned with the growing international happiness index and the specific factors that influence it. Ranging from ‘Safety,’ ‘Air Quality,’ and ‘Community Belonging’ to ‘Walking Alone At Night,’ ‘Views’ and ‘WELL™’ the categories, backed up with visual findings, express the ways in which they have had an effect on various lives.
Most notably, the impact of accessible housing and location on the happiness index were exemplified by those living in temporary homes on the site of a volcano in Hawaii. In order to live the lifestyle they desire that fits within their budget, they are fully aware the volcanic grounds they live on could be subject to another disaster at any moment.
The ‘Social Life’ category describes how an apartment complex in Brooklyn Cultural District used the promise of a specific social lifestyle to sell homes by partnering with founder of Rookie Magazine, Tavi Gevinson. Although Gevinson announced her disbandment in June 2018, her contribution to the #ApartmentStories hashtag was significant, and gave those seeking such a lifestyle something to idealize.
But how is this Arts Chloë? The White Cube does not need to contain what we traditionally recognize as arts (painting, drawing, sculpture…) – it can be anything. The answer is in the curation. Our Happy Life presents a research project in the most formidable way. Curated by Francesco Garutti, Irene Chin, and Jacqueline Meyer, and designed by OK-RM (London), the exhibition takes visitors through rooms ranging from white and clinically archival, to yellow and fluffy, and finally through a long, comforting blue corridor. Large images hang on the walls accompanied by texts stating things like “OUR SENTIMENTS HAVE BECOME STATISTICS AND DATA,” and “HAPPINESS RULES ARE DEFINING SPATIAL VALUES.” The exhibition itself is designed and curated in such a way that makes viewers feel happy, despite the topics they confront within.
I left (both times) feeling quite pleased and thinking, “they’re not wrong.”
The exhibition ends by exploring various cities, where Vienna is ranked first in the 2018 Quality of Living Survey, according to Mercer and The Economist.
Our Happy Life remains in the main exhibition hall at the CCA until Oct. 13.
Graphic by Ana Bilokin (Archive)