Jonathan P. Watts: Happiness


Happiness is not simply the benign concern of the State. Nor is it, William Davies writes in his recently-published book, The Happiness Industry (2015), ‘some pleasant add-on to the more important business of making money, or some new age concern for those with enough time to sit around baking their own bread.’ As a measurable, visible, improvable entity, happiness, he continues, has penetrated practices of global economic management. As such, techniques, measures and technologies for combatting stress, misery and illness now permeate the workplace, the high street, the home and the human body.

Building on his article ‘Happiness Inc.’, published in Art Monthly 391: November 2015, JP will pull in contemporary art’s fascination, too, with alternative belief systems such as Zen and witchcraft in recent exhibitions such as Beatrice Loft Schulz’s ‘Living Arrangement #’ at Arcadia Missa in 2015, Lucy Stein and France-Lise McGurn’s exhibition ‘NEO-PAGAN BITCH-WITCH!’ at Evelyn Yard or Harry Meadley’s ‘Moments of Zen’ at Turf Projects, both in 2016.

Jonathan P. Watts is an art critic and editor based in London. Jonathan is a regular contributor to frieze magazine, and writes for Artforum and Art Monthly. With seven friends he is contributor-editor of a magazine of new art writing called A-or-ist.

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Image Benedict Drew, de-re-touch, 2015, installation view at Charing Cross