• call for proposals
• Mail-art/invitation
• français


Word from the Curator

The Song of Happiness [La Mélodie du bonheur]

The invitation the Manifestation internationale d'art de Québec sent my way did not come without its share of risks. Tackling a subject as uncompromising happiness is far from obvious, in fact it doesn't even stand to reason in light of contemporary art's strong tendency toward criticism, to what some, seeing the widespread taste for pathos, have even identified as moroseness — or again, given a general questioning of common references. Which is nothing yet, if one considers the planet's less than joyful state of affairs.

The risk of being accused of blindness in the face of current political and social dilemmas, in other words, of ignoring the present state of the world, is quite real. The difficulty is compounded by having to take into account recent developments in art discourse not only in Québec, but internationally as well. The contemporariness of contemporary art has seen a proliferation of exhibitions on daily life — many other shows or events have dealt with what is considered commonplace or light, despite the awkward therapeutic metaphor this notion suggests: lightness as a kind of "antidote" to a supposed ambient glumness in contemporary art. Let us begin then by trying to define what happiness is. To do so, far be it from us to indulge in the territory or tone of inspirational guides such as those put forward by Alain in his Propos sur le bonheur or again, by the dalaï-lama in The Art of Happiness. Rather, the Manif d'art and its theme "Happiness and Pretence" is an opportunity to showcase various states relating to happiness - if happiness exists. Today, publicity is colonizing our concept of happiness, shaping and recruiting it within an economic model. A perpetually postponed objective, by definition unattainable, happiness will supposedly manifest itself when anxiety, insecurity, anger and discouragement have been vanquished. Happiness is the focal point of constant longing, the aim of a never — completed quest, the raison d'être of a deep need to bridge an ever-looming gap. It is, as some have said, the satisfaction towards which all satisfactions tend, complete pleasure without which all pleasure is incomplete.

Did not sirens, and their melody, promise perpetually elusive happiness? "Liars when they sing, deceivers when they sigh, fictive when one touches them," as Blanchot phrased it1. Approaching them, La Mélodie du bonheur2 goes on being heard even if their song is never really sung; music becoming silence the minute one enters their realm. And continually, new isles of Nowhere come into view.

Bernard Lamarche


1. Maurice Blanchot, Le livre à venir, Gallimard (Folio/Essais), 1998 (1959), p. 11.
2. The French title of the film The Sound of Music.