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Alfredo Jaar: Studies on Happiness (Afterall Books / One Work)

Alfredo Jaar: Studies on Happiness (Afterall Books / One Work)

Current price: $19.95
Publication Date: November 28th, 2023
Afterall Books
The MIT Press Bookstore
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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, Alfredo Jaar asked Chileans a deceptively simple question: "Are you happy?" Through private interviews, sidewalk polls and video-recorded forums, among other interventions, Jaar’s three-year and seven-phase project, Studies on Happiness, addressed a furtive and fearful population living under Augusto Pinochet’s military dictatorship. It also spoke to a country in transition, as a newly adopted constitution remade Chile through privatisation and other neoliberal reforms. In its varied interventions and direct mode of address, Studies on Happiness functioned as a feedback device meant to catalyse a critical awareness with its blunt questioning.

Edward A. Vazquez contextualises Studies on Happiness within Jaar’s early production and situates his practice within a Chilean art world haunted by the residues of political violence. This study foregrounds the project’s historical embeddedness and the deep political stakes of its apparent sociality, recognising the crucial role that context has always played in Jaar’s practice. By turning to the Santiago of Studies on Happiness, Vazquez explores the work’s political and art historical environment and provides a wedge to realign current interpretations of Chilean art and hemispheric conceptualism with the openness central to Jaar’s project.

About the Author

Edward A. Vazquez is associate professor in the Department of the History of Art and Architecture at Middlebury College. A scholar of modern and contemporary art, he is interested in the terms of materiality and everyday processes of art making in the wake of conceptual art in Europe and the Americas. He is the author of Aspects: Fred Sandback’s Sculpture (2017) and his writings have appeared in Art Journal, Res: Anthropology and Aesthetics,, and in edited volumes and exhibition catalogues.