Last week, I dipped into the Chicago Cultural Center to avoid the rain after a day-long advanced training session. Little did I realize, the Cultural Center was exhibiting Stefan Sagmeister’s Happy Show.
I was feeling malnourished for some engaging art after eight hours of relentless PowerPoint, and was delighted to stumble upon the show, which is a mind-bending romp through Sagmeister’s 10-year journey to discover what makes us happy.
Turns out, happiness is a complex subject. Thankfully, Sagmeister keeps it simple. His direct hand-written explanations pronounce simple truths like this one(see below):
Yet, there is nothing about The Happy Show that underestimates the importance of the topic. The artist renders it methodically with giant inflated monkeys who mock our human tendency to overthink things. (Over thinking gets in the way of our happiness).
I moved from room to room, shedding a day of information overload. I watched a mom help her kids turn the gumball machine that gauged degrees of happiness. Two lovers took turns on the bicycle that faced a giant neon sign and kissed while switching places.
The show still lingers with me. Not because it was so visual or conceptual. It’s not high-brow stuff. This is what I want to tell you: the experience delivered a profound emotional truth—your happiness depends on how you see the world and see yourself in that world.
When I stepped into to the throb of rush hour in Chicago’s Loop, I felt a bit bigger, better, somehow. Popping up my umbrella, I thrust my shoulders back and felt myself smiling.