Instructions for Happiness at 21er Haus / Vienna

Anna-Sophie Berger, Keren Cytter, Heinrich Dunst, Simon Dybbroe Møller, Christian Falsnaes, Barbara Kapusta, Rallou Panagiotou, Angelo Plessas, Maruša Sagadin, Hans Schabus, Socratis Socratous, Jannis Varelas, Salvatore Viviano und Anna Witt

08.07. - 05.11.2017

21er Haus
Arsenalstraße 1
1030 Wien

Images courtesy the artists and 21er Haus
Photos: Thomas Albdorf and Johannes Stoll

Instructions for happiness – an absurd promise? An exhibition at the 21er Haus sets out to explore this subjective, elusive feeling and scrutinizes conceptions of happiness.
Happiness is considered one of the basic human emotions. We all certainly strive to achieve this state in one way or another. But situations and things that make one happy are often not so easy to come across – usually we experience them unexpectedly and by ourselves. It is upon this personal pursuit of happiness that this exhibition has set its focus. 
Instructions for Happiness approaches a hotly debated topic from different perspectives and comes at the right time. With their works, these artists encourage the questioning of our habitual ideas of happiness and the discovery of new facets of the concept of being happy,’ said Director General Stella Rollig.
Antiquity was already equipped with instructions for happiness. Philosophers such as Plato, Aristotle, Epicurus, and Pythagoras dealt with the subject. Today, there are many life guidebooks and self-help literature who promise to satisfy our need for self-optimization; for wherever a need exists, there will be products made to satisfy that particular lack. 
With its title the exhibition also promises such ‘instructions for happiness’. Naturally, the curators were aware that there can be no simple solutions to complex problems when they crafted the exhibition title precisely to satirize all that self-help literature. Still, this group exhibition attempts to broach the phenomenon from a variety of perspectives, finding happiness lying hidden within the interpersonal, the immediate, and the everyday, just like the beauty of little things. The show also reflects on the direct impact of art on society and questions the limits of the aesthetic field. 
So-called instructions for use established themselves in the 1990s as artistic strategies, which would always produce new and unique results with each individual execution. Instructions for Happiness updates this art practice. It is about art as a means of recognizing ourselves in the world and about interacting directly with a work to transform our behaviour in everyday life. The exhibition thus offers visitors a space for experience, so that they may get a little bit closer to their own happiness. 
With their works, some of the participating artists demand that visitors follow instructions, to react to set-up situations, to use objects, or to interact with others. Other works abstain from the call to participate, but invite us to reflect on our everyday spaces. ‘The perspectives, which are very different in form and content, reflect the diversity of viewpoints that artists – like society in general – have on being happy,’ Severin Dünser and Olympia Tzortzi have summarized.