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Happiness Machines


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Happiness Machines

a group exhibition

RISE Berlin

March 26- April 25, 2010
opening: Friday, 26th March 2010, 7-10 pm

featuring work by: Alexander Heaton, Christina Mitrentse, Christophe Chemin, Eileen Cooper, Eddie Nuttall, Guillaume Airiaud & Philippe Comtesse, Hector De Gregorio, João Leonardo, Jonas Ranson, Jan Kiefer, Jon John, Jenus Kahmke, Laurel Johannesson, Lee Wagstaff, Liz Neal, Master Patrick, Matthew Brindle, Richard Sawdon Smith, Stephen Dunne, Tomi Paasonen, Vanda Playford, Xavier Stentz 

Happiness Machines takes its name from an episode of the BBC TV series 'The Century of the Self' made by Adam Curtis; 'this series is about how those in power have used Freud's theories to try and control the dangerous crowd in an age of mass democracy'. Curtis plots the lesser-known story of the growth of the mass-consumer society in Europe and the United States that links individual freedom with consumerism. It tells how the all-consuming self was created, by whom and in whose interests.

Happiness Machines profiles Sigmund Freud’s nephew Edward Bernays whose legacies and ideas still shape the way we live our lives today. Bernays utilized his uncle’s theories to manipulate the general public. Freud claimed to have discovered instinctive yet dangerous primitive sexual and aggressive forces hidden inside the minds of all human beings. If these forces were not controlled they would lead societies into chaos and destruction. Bernays believed that the masses could be controlled and satiated with consumer products and an aspiration lifestyle. He believed that true democracy occurred when the public were controlled and told how to live their lives whilst still believing they were in control of their owns destinies.

Bernays was the father of 'public relations', he linked consumerism with self-expression by mass marketing the idea of the individual. Bernays believed that for economies to grow we must consume more than we need. Bernays' techniques included celebrity endorsements, publicity stunts, self commissioned 'expert advise' and linking cars to male sexuality. Freud's theories as interpreted by Bernays served as the precursor to a world full of political spin-doctors, marketing moguls, and society's belief that the pursuit of satisfaction and happiness is man's ultimate goal. In 1928 US President Hoover was the first politician to articulate the idea that consumerism had become the axis of American life. He told a group of advertisers and public relations men that they have been creating desire and have transformed people into constantly moving 'Happiness Machines'.