Who would not want to stretch a moment of happiness to its utmost limit? This feeling of lightness, this ungraspable thing that is happening now, may go on forever. Happiness, it seems, is barely photographable. A photograph rips apart the moment, yet it is able to perform the function of an amulet and may work as a trigger to bring back to mind happy memories of moments long past.
A group of people, taking a break from technology, meditates with a little help from an app. Max Kraanen found himself in this group whose conversation got started by the following opening line: “Welcome to day one of happiness.” This paradoxical entanglement of technology and the wish for a digital detox gave Kraanen the idea for this temporary installation in Galerie Fontana comprising one thousand polaroids of a view of the ocean.
To what extent can happiness be effected by our conscious striving for it? Will it not then slip through one’s fingers like water? Kraanen says the wall of oceans approaches his mental image of happiness. Perhaps it relates to a deep longing for the primeval power of water, the ultimate source of life, the rhythm of the tides. Indeed, images of oceans, preferably sunsets over water, are often associated with happiness and beauty.
Looking at Kraanen’s installation in one sweep, one might think to look at the same photograph of the same ocean over and over again. Yet there are subtle differences to be perceived if one feels invited to take a closer look. In accordance with the paradoxical situation as he found it in the meditation group, Kraanen made use of modern technology and the cliché image of happiness in a pendulum between the digital and the analog and the mental and material. He pointed his polaroid-camera not towards the real ocean, but on the looped projection of a 25-second clip from only one piece of stock footage.
The installation “Welcome to Day One of Happiness” will turn out to be as fleeting as those moments of perceived happiness. This state of temporary ‘perfection’, where the one thousand ocean views form one tight grid, will be short-lived. Some images already show signs of physical deterioration. The viewer will be invited to participate in the ‘destruction’ of the wall of happiness. Each time a constituent piece is sold, imperfection and incompleteness will be encroaching further and further on the perfect image.
For Kraanen the complete installation belongs to no one in particular, not even himself as the author. Happiness can only be bought in pieces.
Taco Hidde Bakker