The Happy Show
An interview with Stefan Sagmeister
How did the idea of an exhibition about happiness develop? Did the TED-Talk The surprising science of happiness by Dan Gilbert have an impact?
At the very same TED where Dan Gilbert talked about The surprising science of happiness in 2004, I talked about Design and Happiness. It was the good feedback to this talk that made me revisit the subject 5 years later while on sabbatical and made me decide to start a documentary film on happiness. Dan Gilbert’s and my ways crossed many times since and he has certainly been an enormous influence.
I laughed when I read the following sentence in the exhibition’s booklet: If you regularly weep into your pillow at night, visiting [this show at] the MAK won’t keep you from doing so. You say, that the goal behind this sentence was to lower expectations, so it would be easier to excite the visitors. I guess you have to meet great expectations considering your prominence. What strategies do you use to handle that expectations?
I do think that low expectations are a good strategy. I do tend to enjoy films I discover by chance by myself much more, than films that were recommended by all my friends as must-sees. It is difficult for me to develop a strategy for this, as I can’t artificially lower my expectations. For example, in relationships, it is silly of me to expect my partner to be beautiful, kind, smart, sophisticated and adventurous, and even though I know this, its difficult to accept when it is not so.
One of your pieces of advice at the show is, that complaining is silly, either act or forget. Do you think about that often? In what situations?
I might catch myself starting to complain in my head about a client, and when I’m in good shape, I can stop it: Either I can do something about it and try to change the situation, or I accept the situation and move on.
MAK Exhibition View, 2015 – STEFAN SAGMEISTER: The Happy Show, Everybody Always Thinks They Are Right, 2007. In collaboration with Monika Aichele, Matthias Ernstberger, and Sportogo. MAK Columned Main Hall | © MAK/Aslan Kudrnofsky
Right now, truly fantastic. Last week I had a (very rare) number 10 day, right now likely an 8.
A lot of your work has a connection to music. Furthermore music seems to influence emotions. Can you name a particular song that makes you happy?
Music routinely asserts a bigger influence on my mood than any of the other arts. One song that just ran in the studio had perked me up numerous times: Glass Animals – Black Mambo.
Visiting your show made me feel like I could profit from your life lessons. Which particular lesson is especially important for designers?
Having guts always works out for me. Its the one lesson I know well, but still have not internalized completely, I still have to talk myself into it time after time again. My self-censorship keeps me from not trying out things I should.
If you take a look at the latest projects at Design made in Austria, which ones do you like and why?
Of course, the Almdudler identity. Because I love the product. And it is very appropriately designed. The Landjaeger Magazin, because it contains strong ideas well executed (pretty much a definition of good design) and the Good Forks photography of Marion Luttenberger, because she is lovely, wonderful, professional and we work with her a lot.
Thank you for your time. It was a pleasure!
Opening: Tuesday, 27 October 2015, 7 p.m.
Exhibition Venue: MAK, Stubenring 5, 1010 Vienna
Exhibition Dates: 28 October 2015 – 28 March 2016
Opening Hours: Tue 10 a.m.–10 p.m., Wed–Sun 10 a.m.–6 p.m.
Free admission on Tuesdays from 6–10 p.m.