The Production Line of Happiness
27 Jul - 02 Nov 2014
July 27, 2014–November 2, 2014. IN2291.30. Photograph by Jonathan Muzikar.
For the title of this exhibition, Williams has taken a line from a documentary by French director Jean-Luc Godard, in which an amateur filmmaker compares his daily job as a factory worker with his hobby of editing his films of the Swiss countryside as “the production line of happiness.” In Williams’s hands the phrase appears to refer broadly to the function of much photography in today’s consumer culture, in which it not only pictures but also produces so many experiences and objects to be consumed.
The Production Line of Happiness features Williams’s little-seen Super-8 shorts, major projects from the 1980s to the early 1990s, and photographs from his subsequent magnum series For Example: Die Welt ist schön (The world is beautiful) (1993–2001) and For Example: Dix-huit leçons sur la société industrielle (Eighteen lessons on industrial society) (2003–today). Though the exhibition concentrates on photography, other salient aspects of Williams’s practice, such as extensive vinyl “supergraphics” and interventions with display architecture, are also represented. As part of MoMA’s Carte Blanche screening series, Williams will organize a two-week experimental film program running July 23–29 and September 15–21, 2014, in The Roy and Niuta Titus Theaters. After its presentation at MoMA, the exhibition travels to Whitechapel Gallery, London, where it will be organized by Mark Godfrey, Curator of International Art, Tate Modern. At The Art Institute of Chicago, the exhibition was organized by Matthew S. Witkovsky, Richard and Ellen Sandor Chair and Curator, Department of Photography, AIC.
The exhibition is accompanied by an illuminating and unusual volume, in equal parts artist’s book and exhibition catalogue, which includes a trio of essays by curators Mark Godfrey, Roxana Marcoci, and Matthew S. Witkovsky that reflect on Williams’s engagement with his artistic peers and predecessors, with cinema (particularly the film-essay), and with modes of display and publicity in the art world. These contributions are “interrupted” by a transcript of a talk Williams delivered on the work of John Chamberlain, and by historical and contemporary textual and visual materials that were selected by the artist himself.
The exhibition is co-organized by The Museum of Modern Art and The Art Institute of Chicago.
At MoMA the exhibition is organized by Roxana Marcoci, Senior Curator; with Lucy Gallun, Assistant Curator, Department of Photography.