The 22nd edition of the Biel/Bienne Festival of Photography looks at the notion of happiness and its growing importance in contemporary society. Whether measured by the index of Gross National Happiness or by the number of followers of a generation Y, happiness seems to have become something that can be controlled and quantified. The pursuit of happiness – an inalienable human right, according to the United States Declaration of Independence – has become a product marketed by countless self-help books and personal development workshops.
Whether what is sought is something real, imagined, or simply illusory, the images on display at this year’s festival testify to the quest for happiness and the construction of happiness, both individual and collective. As social animals, we find happiness in emotional bonds, groups and communities. What political or social system is most likely to bring happiness to its population? And at what cost could that system be made to prevail? Where is happiness to be found? In economic growth? On Mars? In the afterlife? Or in the end, will the ones who live happily ever after be not us, but our avatars?