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This July Wellcome Collection will launch On Happiness, a season of free events, activities and two exhibitions—Joy and Tranquillity—which will bring together voices from across the cultural, scientific and spiritual fields to reflect on the elusive subject of happiness.

In this period of great instability, escalating infectious diseases, ecological concerns and rising levels of anxiety and depression worldwide, Wellcome Collection will examine the ways in which people find resilience, hope and even joy, at times of duress. In response to seismic political and social upheavals On Happiness will ask; how might we rebuild happiness for our current times?

From serenity to ecstasy, awe to comfort, happiness encompasses many different feelings, and is a subject which has perplexed scholars for centuries. There has long been debate around the role of emotions, where they come from and how they are expressed, and whether they are innate or acquired, universal or culturally specific. Reflecting on the connections between these complex emotions, our bodies and health, On Happiness will offer audiences an opportunity to rethink how we feel good.

At the heart of the On Happiness season will be the concurrent exhibitions Joy and Tranquillity which will consider different routes to experiencing these positive feelings. From the uplifting sensations of dancing and laughter to the calm of being in nature and diary writing, the exhibitions will consider the effects of emotion on our self and others. Newly commissioned works and multi-sensory installations by contemporary artists including Jasleen Kaur, Chrystel Lebas, Harold Offeh, Amalia Pica, Stefanie Posavec and David Shrigley will be on display alongside historic objects dating back to the 15th century from Wellcome’s collection. The exhibitions will consider ideas from different schools of thought including neuroscience, religion and psychotherapy offering perspectives on the connections between emotions and health.

In addition to the exhibitions, the season will offer a varied programme beyond the museum and online. Stefanie Posavec’s interactive digital commission and playful wellbeing questionnaire Updating Happiness will invite participants to submit their answers to a growing archive of definitions of happiness. An audio guide and podcast will bring together interdisciplinary voices to explore the themes of the season. On Happiness will also include Harold Offeh’s live dance-a-thon Joy Inside Our Tears; digital stories exploring happiness through the ages; artist in conversations, amongst many other free events and activities.

Joy and Tranquillity are co-curated by Laurie Britton Newell and George Vasey as part of Wellcome Collection’s On Happiness season.

Wellcome Collection

183 Euston Road

London NW1 2BE, UK


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