To live, man must hold three things as the supreme and ruling values of his life:
Reason—Purpose—Self-esteem. Reason, as his only tool of knowledge—Purpose, as his
choice of the happiness which that tool must proceed to achieve—Self-esteem, as his
inviolate certainty that his mind is competent to think and his person is worthy of
happiness, which means: is worthy of living (Rand, For the New Individual, 128).
This quote by author Ayn Rand, founder of objectivism, begins the conversation for the exhibit, The Pursuit of Happiness. Objectivism, named from the concept that human knowledge and values are objective, is centered around the idea of man as a heroic being who is entitled to the pursuit of happiness. Rand believed that the selfish pursuit of happiness was the only moral purpose of a person's life, and through reason, man could become conscious of independent truths existent in nature and reality. Along with the initial Rand quote, there will be the definitions of two words written on the front of a dividing wall: happiness and reason. Ironically, two subjective terms are what largely form the basis of objectivism and they will guide the viewers' to evaluate that disparity throughout the exhibit. The exhibition is intended to test the objectivist framework by raising questions about how happiness is defined, obtained, and measured, and what those questions ultimately mean for the viewer.
Upon entering a circular gallery through double doors, the viewer first encounters a long, pastel yellow dividing wall, which allows for passage into the exhibit on either end. Yellow is generally associated with happiness and energy, like the sun; it will serve as both a preview and a reminder of the exhibit's basic ties to the theme. The wall will contain the aforementioned quotes as well as one from the 14th Dalai Lama's acceptance speech of the Nobel peace prize in 1989:
People inflict pain on others in the selfish pursuit of their happiness or satisfaction. Yet
true happiness comes from a sense of inner peace and contentment, which in turn must be
achieved through the cultivation of altruism, of love and compassion and elimination of
ignorance, selfishness and greed. The problems we face today, violent conflicts,
destruction of nature, poverty, hunger, and so on, are human-created problems which can
be resolved through human effort, understanding and the development of a sense of
brotherhood and sisterhood. More than 20 years later, his words still ring true. After reading these quotes, the viewers will be able to walk into the remaining semi-circle that contains the artworks. With the shape of the room, the viewer will evaluate the pieces in a line fashion from either direction. The quotes will have had a moment to begin a swirl of curiosity which will simmer at the mind's forefront throughout the viewer's experience in the room. The room will have plain white tile floors and a white perimeter wall in order to maintain full focus on the artworks.
Depending on what side the viewer enters from, they will come across different images, but for the purposes of this paper, the pieces will go from left to right. Starting with Fig 1: Jacynthe loves orange juice, made with gelatin silver print on paper in 1996 by Vik Muniz. Vik Muniz is a Brazilian born artist with a unique style and talent for reproducing photos. With The Sugar Children, the series which gained him his popularity, Muniz spent time on the Caribbean beach of St. Kitts. He met and got to know some beautiful, native children of cane workers of plantations. According to Muniz, "the children had this radiance, this purity" (Feitlowitz). Unlike their parents, who had become bitter from years of toil under the hot sun, these impoverished children found their happiness in the small things. They did not measure their happiness in wealth or status. Muniz photographed the children and created four portraits made from sugar sprinkled across black paper....
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