Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth
- Pharrell Williams
Each morning, the school in my neighbourhood plays the song Happy by Pharrell Williams over the loudspeaker. It is fun, upbeat, and repetitious; the ideal mood enhancer to start the day. When the vibe wanes after lunch, Happy kicks back in for an afternoon pick-me-up. Days, weeks, and terms go by like this, habituating and idealising a state of unwavering joy in a generation of young people.
For adults, a vast wellness industry has popped up on the main street, in the mall, on our smart devices, and in our daily routines. Happiness is again the goal, defined not simply as compulsory twice-daily dance-sing-along merriment, but instead as an all-round sense of wholesome self-satisfaction and work- life-leisure perfection. Feeling tired, bored, down, distracted, stressed, apathetic, lethargic – there are trademarked breathing exercises, meditation apps, fitness philosophies, eco-retreats, spa packages, and bespoke juice combinations to mend any deficiency.
At night, streaming apps recommend viewing options to complement my mood. Social channels play back my private conversations and online searches as suggested posts; things to do, follow, buy, or believe. AI decision trees streamline my choices; my thoughts synchronise with my audio-visual feeds. Autopilot, then sleep.
Horizon of Happiness is a computer-generated guided meditation that emerges from this setting. Lines of white text slowly fade in and out on screen, each selected from a database of thousands of phrases. The resulting script combines techniques from mindfulness, body scanning, self-affirmation, guided imagery, mantra, and positive psychology. In the background, a skyscape slowly changes; fluffy white clouds form and dissipate, a blue sky transitions to dusk, stars twinkle, before dawn restarts the day. While time passes, there is no beginning-middle-end in this algorithmically persistent invitation to breath, relax, and be well. The journey is the destination. Release any negativity. Your thoughts float away. Happiness is the truth.
The artist would like to thank Stephanie Berlangieri, Brendan Van Hek, Consuelo Cavaniglia, Karam Hussein, Thomas Whelan, Maximilian Daniels, Elias Berkhout and Sam Holland.