The Happy Show in Toronto: Educational and Recreational

On Friday, Feb. 15th I finally attended The Happy Show, located at the Toronto Design Exchange.  A funny, spirited, and lusty exhibition – I was hooked from the beginning. This exhibition shares the results of Austrian-born graphic designer, Stefan Sagmeister’s 10-year investigation into the nature and search for happiness. In his quest for happiness, Sagmeister had experimented with three tactics:  meditation, cognitive therapy and pharmaceuticals (not recreational but, but prescription antidepressants/SSRIs). In an interview with Karen von Hahn, with the Toronto Star, he explains:

Meditation, which I thought would be the most successful, ended up making the least difference, while drugs, which I really didn’t think would make much difference since I was not depressed, were surprisingly effective. And cognitive therapy proved to me that if I were really serious about it, I could change myself, which made me happy to learn.1

Although some critics claim The Happy Show lacks educational themes. I disagree, having found this exhibition to be both educational and recreational. It provides data on the research within Sagmeister’s thorough investigations, which draws from psychologist’s like Steven Pinker to anthropologists, including Donald Symonds. This exhibition teaches and engages the audience, holding the viewers’ attention and soliciting intrigue and delight with its interactive installations and videos. I personally participated in some of the installations, such as riding the bicycle that interacts with a neon sign, where as one peddles, the neon sign in front of the bike reads: Actually Doing The Things, Set Out to Do Increases My Overall level of Satisfaction.

I found this exhibition to be witty and powerful while maintaining the aim of informing the audience. From the beginning of the exhibition, the artist discloses “This Exhibition is not Going to Make You Happy”, but it certainly makes you “smile.” What struck me the most about this show is Sagmeister’s theory on relationships: passion versus compassionate love, where he asserts that passionate relationship only last 6 months.

As a part of the exhibition, audience members are asked to treat themselves with a Singaporean candy —a favourite of the artist (which was delicious!) – and a yellow gumball, which is part of the interactive exhibition that measures happiness on a scale from 1 to 10 (see image in this post). Having the opportunity to snack on candy was certainly a boost to my happiness experience.

Additionally, throughout the show, one sees scribbles on the walls of the Design Exchange, also written on the walls of the lobby and in the women’s bathrooms. Once I walked out of the exhibition, heading towards the elevator, I was ensnared with more visual interventions both outside and inside the elevator (you need to see it for yourself!). Following one of the most exiting and interactive exhibition that I have had the opportunity to attend, this definitely was an exhibition that solic

ited feelings of happiness, from the candies to the elevator right out!

This show exhibits (January 9 – March 3, 2013). If you would like to learn more, see the Design Exchange.

Enjoy some pictures below, and if you’re able to, go check out the show if you’re look ing for a bit of happiness in your day!


1 Karen von Hahn (2013). The Happiness Show at the Design Exchange aim is to be more pleasurable than educational

One thought on “The Happy Show in Toronto: Educational and Recreational

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