PICTURING HAPPINESS? An exploratory conversation between 6 scientists and artists — and you
This is the video recording of the performance that took place 25.01.2019. It was directed, filmed and edited by Philip Tan. Picturing Happiness? was part of Residencies OPEN, NTU Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore. Part of Art After Dark and Singapore Art Week. It took place at Gillman Barracks. CCA Director: Ute Meta Bauer. See kaisyngtan.com/portfolio/picturing-happiness/ for gallery and details.
A PLAYFUL LOOK AT HAPPINESS & HUMAN AGENCY
What could happiness look like? Just how difficult is it to picture happiness? If nature, philosophy, science, the arts and religion haven’t provided all the answers, could technology help us take a peek at the other side’? Amid a world embroiled in turmoil, is ‘happiness’ a vague, shifting and indeed shifty imagery, imagination and myth? For inhabitants of a garden-city that brands itself as a ‘paradise’, is it all bright and clear? Where do individuals sit—as participants, consumers, creators and researchers—in this conversation? What levels of input, control and indeed power and autonomy do we have?
Picturing Happiness? is an exploration between 2 scientists and 4 artists — and you, the audience/participant — through science, art, music, and an EEG device enticingly named Muse. EEG (electroencephalography), which records electrical activity of the brain, has played an important role in the field of medicine to diagnose, prevent and treat a range of conditions including epilepsy, stroke, cognitive impairments and ADHD. Consumer EEG devices such as the Muse headset have entered everyday life. With the ability to read brain waves that reveal how focused or relaxed we are, several market themselves as meditation and ‘mindfulness’ devices, selling the idea that a calm mind is a happier one. Muse, together with its rivals and accomplices, is part of the powerful ‘wellbeing’ industry (worth $1.2 billion in the US alone in 2017) as well as of the Quantified Self movement and Internet of Things.
Picturing Happiness? opens up a space that invites us to cast a critical and playful eye on human beings’ eternal pursuit of happiness and our relationship with technology in the context of Singapore. The team is working together for the first time. In this evening’s performances, we invite participants to use their ability to relax to form images or imaginations of happiness, individually and collectively. The more relaxed you are, the clearer this vision becomes! And with each performance yielding different processes for participants and performers alike, the spirit is experimental, something that scientists and artists alike share. We aren’t just asking ‘what is’, but ‘what if’, equally embracing failures, surprising possibilities and, perhaps, even moments of happiness?…
— Dr Tan Kai Syng
Professor Guan Cuntai is a Professor in the School of Computer Science and Engineering, Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore.
Mane Ravikiran Tanaji is a PhD student at the School of Computer Science and Engineering, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.
Philip Tan a visionary creative director, composer, surround sound designer and educator.
Patrick Poh is a timelapse artist from Singapore.
Airik Ng is an art educator, storyboard artist, and set designer.
Tan Kai Syng is an artist and curator based in London, United Kingdom.
Special thanks to Professor Guan Cuntai and Mane Ravikiran Tanaji at the School of Computer Science and Engineering, NTU, for expert advice and technical support.