Happiness (2019) | By Studio Dries Verhoeven Archived

Until 20 October, the work Happiness by Studio Dries Verhoeven was on display at the NDSM-wharf. The work approaches the area where man and artificiality coincide, where artificial means help us to be (more) human again, or to leave being human for a little while. In Happiness Dries explores the world of artificial happiness that presents itself in the form of drugs, painkillers and antidepressants. On the street is a small pharmacy building. A humanoid – a human looking robot – works there as a pharmacist’s assistant. She tells us about the means by which we can adjust the serotonin and dopamine levels in our brains, thus adjusting our reality and perception. Are we moving towards a world where we are lyrical by appointment, programmable in our feelings?

Now that the use of recreational drugs in nightlife seems to become mainstream, and the stigma on antidepressants is beginning to disappear, our idea of what emotions are is shifting. We no longer see them as authentic true experiences, but as chemical processes in our brains that we can influence to our heart’s content. By adjusting the amount of serotonin and dopamine we are able to create our reality and perception. Politically and socially there is quite a bit of suspicion towards the pharmaceuticals of the influence on consciousness, but how tenable is this reluctance to deal with the artificial in the light of technological developments and growing demand?

On 20 October, during ADE Hangover, the artist talk “Happiness on Demand” was organized in Sociëteit Sexyland. Dries Verhoeven talked to Machteld Busz (initiator of Poppi: Drugs Museum Amsterdam) and journalist Thijs Roes (De Correspondent and Vice Media) who studied the drug policy of the future. The talk was interpreted by author Marian Donner with appropriate passages from her Self destruction book, which is inspired by ‘Happiness’. For the occasion there was a special artwork to be admired from Poppi Drugs Museum Amsterdam.

Happiness was a co-production with Stichting NDSM-werf & SPRING Performing Arts Festival.

Photography by :Willem Popelier

About Studio Dries Verhoeven

In his installations and performance work, Dries Verhoeven reflects on today’s social and political reality. Verhoeven regards public space as a political space, a place where, through art, we can enter into dialogue with each other about the social status quo, including less pleasant themes and positions. The stakes in the works are never to present a clear standpoint on these issues, but rather an attempt to disrupt the thinking of large groups of viewers, in order to sow doubt in common positions.

Verhoeven: “In times of polarization we are helped with confusion and imagination. I don’t want to impose my own moral or political position, if I have one at all, on the viewer. The only thing we artists can do is to plough hesitantly into the viewer’s head. It is only through the disorder that thinking becomes active. My authorship is limited. It is the viewer who gives meaning”.

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