Art | Studio Dries Verhoeven | Happiness

Until 20 October, the work Happiness by Studio Dries Verhoeven was on display at the NDSM shipyard. The work approaches the area where man and artificiality coincide, where artificial means help us to be human again or more, or to leave being human for a while. In Happiness, Dries explores the world of artificial happiness that presents itself in the form of drugs, painkillers and antidepressants. There is a small pharmacy building on the street. 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, and thus adjust our reality and perception. Are we moving towards a world where we are lyrical by appointment, programmable in our feelings?

As nightlife recreational drug use seems to become mainstream, and the stigma on antidepressants begins 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, which 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 a great deal of suspicion about the pharmaceuticals of psychotropic influence, but how tenable is this reluctance to deal with the artificial in the light of technological developments and the 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) about the drugs policy of the future. The talk was interpreted by author Marian Donner with appropriate passages from her Self-Desstruction book, which is inspired by ‘Happiness’. For the occasion, a special work of art by the Poppi Drugs Museum Amsterdam was on display.

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 the current social and political reality. Verhoeven sees public space as a political space, a place where, through art, we can enter into dialogue with each other about the social status quo, also about less pleasant themes and positions. The aim of the works is never to put forward a clear point of view on these issues, but rather an attempt to disrupt the thinking of large groups of viewers in order to sow doubt in current positions.

Verhoeven: “In times of polarisation, we are helped by 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 hesitantly plough into the viewer’s head. It is only through deregulation that thinking becomes active. My authorship is limited. It is the viewer who gives meaning.”

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