Can a new definition of happiness offer new prospects for the future? The Stedelijk Museum ’s-Hertogenbosch launched Reinventing Happiness. In a three-year research project, the museum went in search of new, social, sustainable forms of happiness with the help of artists, visitors, and local residents. What if happiness can be found in unexpected encounters? What do work, depression and cheer have to do with each other?
Within this project artist Jeanne van Heeswijk and theatremaker Paul de Bruyne called their research direction “Staged Happiness”. What does society do to you if you always have to be happy and be available for the labour market? They took comedy as their point of departure. Comedy rests on the pleasure of shared frivolity. So Van Heeswijk and De Bruyne looked for players willing to venture fearlessly onto the field and throw themselves into the game – a desperate search for natural happiness in an age when manufactured, reproducible bonheur is for sale in potion and pill form.
After a thorough analysis of the mechanisms of eternal economic progress (Walt Disney’s Carroussel of Progress) and the realisation that consumption is often perceived as a lucky drug, Van Heeswijk and De Bruyne came to the conclusion that they had to create a symbolic and artistic army. “De Militaire Academie van ’t Geregisseerd Geluk” (the Military Academy of Directed Happiness) was a prep school based on cheerful, but at the same time extremely serious and militant grounds. Texts were developed that conveyed the certainty of happiness in the language and ideology of propaganda. This army carried out secret interventions in the city. The interventions were designed by Collective Works.