Research

Happiness Is… Research Note #15

This is what I think of as “the H-word problem”:

Happiness is commonly associated with simply being in a cheerful mood. Thus, making work about happiness can seem (at worst) simplistic, childish, thoughtless, naïve, privileged, trivial, and myopic.

Dig a little deeper, and happiness is complex, multifaceted, and subjective. So much so, that I think the works I’m making about happiness are quite modest. These projects hint only at elements of happiness, so elusive is happiness itself.

So it’s nice to read about the commitment to crafting tiny things. Jerry Seinfeld’s commitment to the quotidian, and his highly-disciplined pursuit of perfection are inspiring (see Jonah Weiner, “Jerry Seinfeld Intends to Die Standing Up,” New York Times, December 20, 2012).

After staying up late to finish a 96-square checkerboard flag (it doesn’t really evidence “the hand” that makes artists’ authorship obvious, and I imagine, will be read as a store-bought item by some viewers), I especially appreciated Seinfeld’s reflection that his work is to spend inordinate amounts of time on matters that most of us don’t think twice about. Even if the content does not strike viewers as especially consequential, the larger project is one of rigorous craftsmanship and dedication, which informs each gesture.

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