Studies on Happiness
152 pp., 6 x 9 in, 48 color illus.
- Published: November 28, 2023
- Publisher: Afterall Books
A richly illustrated survey of Alfredo Jaar's Studies on Happiness (1979–1981) and its deep political stakes in the historical context of Chile's neoliberal transition.
Between 1979 and 1981, a young artist and architecture school dropout named Alfredo Jaar asked Chileans the deceptively simple question: "Are you happy?" Including private interviews, sidewalk polls, and video-recorded forums, among other interventions, Jaar's two-year and seven-phase project, Studies on Happiness, addressed a country in transition, as a newly adopted constitution remade Chile through privatization and other neoliberal reforms. Jaar's first major artwork has been imprecisely discussed in the monographic literature on the artist and rarely mentioned in studies of Chilean art after 1973.
Edward Vazquez contextualizes Jaar's Studies on Happiness within his early production and places his practice within the Chilean art world, thus reinstating the project's historical embeddedness and the deep political stakes of its sociality. The work's marginality is a strength: its minor status in the period and in Jaar's oeuvre allow it an historical freedom in engaging Chilean culture under Augusto Pinochet and provides a wedge to realign current interpretations of Chilean art and hemispheric conceptualism with the openness central to Jaar's project.