Did you ever take time to think about how you feel or where those feelings come from? The elusive subject of happiness and the role emotions play on our health has baffled scientists for centuries. On the 15th of July, Wellcome Collection launched On Happiness, a season of free events, activities and two exhibitions – Joy and Tranquillity – and The Young Londoner team went to have a look.
At the heart of the On Happiness season are the joint exhibitions Joy and Tranquility which explore the many ways we go about experiencing these positive feelings. The place is an oasis of calm that encourages the viewer to interact with the multi-sensory installations.
This is an event that shouldn’t be rushed! The Tranquility room allows the visitor to relax in a yoga studio and learn about self care practices or take time to experience the calm sounds of an ancient forest and reflect on our own wellbeing and our interdependence on others and the natural environment.
Feeling calm and refreshed we moved on to the second room hosting the Joy exhibition. Here we were encouraged to think and feel the heightened emotional states such as ecstasy, euphoria and pleasure through experiences including laughter, dancing and protest. Many of the works in the exhibition explore joyful experiences as a way of releasing tension and helping to mitigate the stress in the body.
Here we were entertained by the artworks of Harold Offeh, Amalia Pica and David Shrigley which look at themes of resilience, humour and hope. The commissions are shown alongside contemporary artworks and historic objects that focus on different paths to joy and its interconnection to sorrow. These works demonstrate how we might move beyond the over simplistic concepts of happy and sad in order to create a more complex understanding of emotions.
In addition to the exhibitions, the season offers a varied programme beyond the museum and online. Updating Happiness is an emotional check-in device by Stefanie Posavec which playfully draws attention to small daily pleasures that make us feel good. You are invited to participate in this online digital artwork by completing a short questionnaire and receive a uniquely designed quote based on your answers. This quote will be added to a growing archive of reflections on happiness.
On Happiness is a season of free exhibitions, events and activities exploring the complexity of positive emotions, running at the Welcome Collection from 15 July 2021 to 27 February 2022. Find out more and book your free tickets on the Wellcome Collection website here.