A Form of Happiness
What makes us happy? It is a question that we spend our whole lives exploring. It is extremely personal and subjective yet we are all looking to find it. It drives us to do what we do, but what is it really? The answer, scientists say, lies with dopamine.
Dopamine is an organic chemical, known as a neurotransmitter, that travels between nerve cells in the brain. As we make discoveries, receive rewards and learn, dopamine is released and fuels the desire for more of whatever provided that reward. For example, it is what makes us want to learn more, do more, eat, have sex, spend money, seek peer affirmation and hunt for bargains. Although it is possible to take it medicinally, dopamine cannot cross the blood-brain barrier and therefore we cannot artificially increase the amount our brains produce. However stimulants including cocaine have this effect by blocking its re-absorption after release.
Browsing for potential purchases is known to result in dopamine release. This occurs when we find what we are looking for, or spot something else desirable. Interestingly, it is the discovery rather than the purchase, that releases the most dopamine.
A Form of Happiness is a molecular space-filling model of the neurotransmitter dopamine. The model comes in the form of a series of individual components representing atoms which are assembled using their embedded neodymium magnets. The kit comes with a pamphlet of stories that explore potential narratives as to how the object could play a variety of roles in an individual’s life.
The object and stories raise awareness of what happens in the brain when we feel compelled to make a spontaneous purchase. It is a rhetorical object in that it represents the chemical desire it might create in the mind of a customer thinking of purchasing it.
A Form of Happiness has been created by Jessica Charlesworth and Tim Parsons for the current exhibition in London entitled Image for a Title : Placebo Effects In The Cultural Landscape curated by Workshop for Potential Design in the Brompton Design District of the London Design Festival, opened on the 14th Sept.
The curators Tetsuo Mukai and Bernadette Deddens of Workshop for Potential Design ( and Study O Portable) write:
The point of departure for the exhibition is the idea of placebo effects in the cultural landscape, or how conditions and expectations affect the way we form ideas about an object or an image.
We often make sense of the world through objects we see and use everyday, though it is quite evident that the conditions in which the interaction happens and the expectations we have about these objects affect greatly how we perceive them. This is of course a general and common topic in the media driven, image rich society we live in, but it also holds a certain significance as a possible opening for a discussion on how we could potentially bypass all this, or even exploit this mechanism for our own ends.
The exhibition and the accompanying publication review this phenomenon and propose alternatives, speculative scenarios and other possibilities between us and the things that surround us.
Image for a Title : Placebo Effects In The Cultural Landscape
Tim Parsons & Jessica Charlesworth
Study O Portable
Open daily 11:00 – 18:00
14 – 23 September 2012
8 Egerton Gardens Mews
London SW3 2EH
Private view Thursday 20th 18:00 – 21:00
Bar by Peter Marigold
Organised by Workshop For Potential Design
with support from Brompton Design District
A Form of Happiness handout by Working Knowledge