A few fragments about happiness
video, 13’53”, 2012
Concept and editing: h.arta
Camera : Huba Antal, Levente Kozma
In the frame of the project Waiting Spaces
On the waiting post-industrial spaces, places lost from the commons, places frozen in history, ruins of the past that are still waiting for an uncertain future, we wanted to project our thoughts on happiness. Happiness not as an ecstatic state but as a dignified way of living, happiness not as an individual issue but as a possibility for a fairer world. When is happiness possible?
Why in the so-called civilized societies the traces of unhappiness, of poverty, of despair are hidden ? Why are the unhappy ones evicted to the margins of the society, why are they hidden to our gaze ? Maybe because they can remind us of our own unhappiness ? Or maybe because it is important for the maintaining of the status-quo to ignore the connections between our own happiness and their despair ? Is happiness balance ? Is individual happiness possible when it is not something that every being shares ?
Fragments from the text that accompanied the images in the video, as subtitles:
The duty to be happy according to a predetermined design, to follow a life scenario that includes also a house in the suburbs, with a courtyard for your children to play in. The gated space in which the family can isolate itself, in her intimate paradise. A place in which you can be exclusively with your kind, with the ones that share your social status and your life plans. A place in which the ones who are marginal, the unhappy ones are not in the reach of your gaze.
A rusty bridge, a field with grass, which in the time span of three months, that went by between our two visits to this place was almost completely covered with piles of garbage and construction debris searched by humans and dogs. In the background, the ruins of a factory. A small pound in which fish and frogs are still alive, progressively swamped with garbage. Large portions of land are excavated. A man who lived in the neighborhood told us that these chunks of land with grass are taken for the yards of reach houses in the city. A few years ago, people used to use this land to next to the pound for picnics, when it was still clean grass and water here. A Roma man joined our discussion. Every time he started to speak he would say: “Sorry for wanting to say something myself”. A child passed by us. On his ragged tshirt was written “The world is mine.”. He asked for a cigarette.
The hope to happiness is unequally distributed. Not just that some people have more chances to hope for happiness, but also their happiness is based on the unhappiness of others, on their complete lack of hope.
Solventul used to be one of the biggest chemical plants in the country. The first time we visited its ruins, we discovered a place with the atmosphere of a metaphysical painting, with deserted offices, with mountains of bricks, with reservoirs above which the smell of the chemicals is still lingering. The man who was guarding the place told us about how the plant was artificially bankrupted, even if it was still a demand for its products and there were still valid contracts. The land, inside the city is very valuable. He used to work in the plant for 30 years, and he knows that (because of the poor working conditions and disregard of the safety rules after 1990) many of his colleagues are not alive any more. He and two old dogs were guarding the place from the marginal, mostly Roma people who search the ruins for recyclable metals.
When we tried to go back at Solventul, after 3 months, it was not possible to enter any longer. A demolition firm was dismembering the last standing structures. One of the workers told us that maybe a shopping mall was going to be built there.
Capitalism needs desertion and destruction, needs a blank page on which to inscribe its own rules. Capitalism is built on ruins.
What is the significance of our meditative walks in the peripheries of the city, around former factories, in empty spaces between blocks of flats?
The memories of our childhoods in socialist times when we used to make school visits in these factories that at the time were still working? When the people populating them still had the dignity of their profession (or at least this is how it seemed to us)? Were the workers in these factories happy, those people who lived the effervescence of times when the world was re-invented? Or is this effervescence only the product of our imagination, of the imagination of people living in times when no fundamental change seems possible any more? Are these walks among the ruins about the nostalgia for a past that never took place?
During these contemplative walks through places of the past, through spaces that wait for an uncertain future, places that are metaphors for our own precariousness, we thought about the possibilities and limits of the artistic process. These spaces that, through their mixture of uncertainty and possibilities, reminded us of our condition as artists during uncertain times and were at the same time symbolic for the boarders between spaces that art can relevantly and effectively talk about and those spaces for which art remains superfluous. In them we were tourists visiting the past and trying to analyse it. But beyond this limiting gaze of the tourist that always goes back to his safe place at “home” – the artist’s condition – was there a possibility for art (even though in a limited and merely symbolic way) to be the spark that triggers understanding and leads to action?