The "Printemps des Laboratoires" off-site

The Right to Be Unhappy in Barcelona
On the politics of control of human behaviour and psychotropification of society

In his controversial book The Happiness Industry: How the Government and Big Business Sold Us Wellbeing, William Davies[1] shows us how happiness has transformed itself from a wellbeing state to a new form of making money for contemporary capitalism. The exponential increase in the use of antipsychotic drugs for the treatment of all kinds of ailments (depression, anxiety, etc.) highlights the unprecedented radical shift in the psychiatric prescription praxis. From children all the way to the elderly, the way in which we daily consume antipsychotic drugs to treat any type of disorder, from the cognitive to the affective, has been naturalized. Some data shows that, for instance, in few years, the number of children treated for attention deficit disorder has quadrupled, and schools are filled with students that “need” to be medicated. Their numbers have gone up to 3.5 million from the 600,000 in 1990; while the prescription of drugs for different types of depression, or therapies that prevent certain moods that are not socially accepted, like sadness, melancholy, enervation, rage, boredom, anger, hysteria or worry, have increased.

The growing dependency on drugs makes clear that the rise of mental health problems, like depression, cannot be figured only on strict medical terms, it needs to be understood in its own socio-political context. In addition, new technologies such as Google, Facebook and Twitter sell information related to our emotions, which can be later used by marketing companies to modify our consumption patterns, and conduct an almost immediate follow up of our emotional state. About the pharmacopornographic regime in which, for each maneuvering of the Government, there follows a technique on subject construction, Paul B. Preciado, author of the essay Testo Junkie, writes that “The Pill [like Prozac, Viagra, Triazepan or Ritalin] is a miniaturized pharmacopornographic laboratory distributed within the domestic environment and destined to be placed inside the body of each consumer […] In the pharmacopornographic era, the body swallows power. It is a form of control that is both democratic and private, edible, drinkable, inhalable, and easy to administer, whose spread throughout the social body has never been so rapid or so undetectable”.[2] In fact, happiness is a consumer product as any other, and our emotions are the new religion of the twenty-first century.
In addition to all other realms and contexts engaged in controlling that behavior – education, the law, urban space, architecture, or established patterns of good behavior –, this psychotropic trend acts as a powerful social control program sheltered by science. Although, obviously, medication stabilizes emotions and behavior, it removes from patients something as human as self-reflection, recognition, mourning, the capacity to independently regulate emotions and the freedom to overcome them, or not. We should then ask ourselves, what can we do to continue enjoying our rights to be different, eccentric, to refuse to work, to not be productive, to be sad, obsessed, to refuse to be focused, to not produce excellent results, to not make money, to refuse to contribute to society, to talk nonsense, to hear voices, have visions, nightmares… to not be happy?

Therefore, how can we conceive the construction and reconstruction of possible models of human consciousness that go against this phenomenon? Can we imagine behavioral emancipatory dynamics that will challenge control structures? How can we generate spaces of common affective infection through group activity? How can we foster dialogue between art, psychoanalysis and social science? How can we free the standardized image of thought imposed by the logico-political apparatus? Can collective conversational, reconstructive or testing activities become a resistance practice?

Through a two-day program that includes films, performances, installations, activities and conversations targeting artists and other experts in dialogue with the general public, El derecho a ser infeliz [The Right to Be Unhappy] wants to challenge some of these questions, proposing a space for shared reflection, enunciation and testing.


Participants : Montserrat Rodriguez (interval), Virginia García del Pino, Barbara Rodriguez Munoz, Valentina Desideri, Florence Portocarrero, Warren Neidich, Silvia Maglioni & Graeme Thomson, Dora García, Mathilde Villeneuve, Alexandra Baudelot, Veronica Valentini, Juan Canela et l'UFO Observatory Video No Identificat de Barcelone.

Curated by BAR project and Les Laboratoires d’Aubervilliers
In collaboration with Institut Français and Fundació Antoni Tàpies
The film program is made thanks to OVNI Observatori de Video No Identificat, Barcelona.



Friday 6 May 2016
7:00 - 9:00 pm - Institut Français in Barcelona

7:00-7:30 pm
Presentation and introduction The Right to Be Unhappy with Mathilde Villeneuve, Alexandra Baudelot, Dora García (Les Laboratoires d’Aubervilliers), Carles Guerra (director Antoni Tàpies Foundation), Veronica Valentini and Juan Canela (BAR project)

7:30 - 8:00 pm
Projection des films suivants :

Five Year Diary, Reel 23: A Breakdown and After the Mental Hospital, 1982, US, Super 8 on digital video, colour, 26’, by Anne Charlotte Robertson, english with spanish subtitles.

Pare de Sufrir, 2002, España-México, 7’, by Virginia García del Pino, spanish.

The film program is made thanks to OVNI Observatori de Video No Identificat, Barcelona.

8:15 - 9:00 pm
Conversation between the artist Dora Garcia and Pare de Sufrir director Virginia García del Pino followed by an open dialogue.

9:00 pm  Refreshments



Saturday 7 May 2016
10:00 am - 7:00 pm  - Fundació Antoni Tàpies à Barcelone

9:45 am
Welcome by Carles Guerra

10:00 - 11:30 am
Silvia Maglioni & Graeme Thomson, UIQ (the unmaking-of), surround sound installation, invisible film, 78’

Arts combinatories

11:45 am - noon  
Introduction by Veronica Valentini, Juan Canela and Carles Guerra

noon - 1:30 pm 
Dora García in conversation with Bárbara Rodríguez Muñoz, Montserrat Rodriguez (Intervalos) and Florencia Portocarrero: on the representation of the human psyche, exhibition and revelation, and the relation between art and psychoanalysis.

1:30 - 2:30 pm  Break lunch

3:00 - 4:45 pm
Introduction by Veronica Valentini and Juan Canela of interventions and performances by Warren Neidich, Florencia Portocarrero and Valentina Desideri

Warren Neidich, Numb your Ass and your Brain and your Heart, After Charles Bukowski, 45’, 2015-2016.

Florencia Portocarrero, Public Display of Affection, 2016.

Valentina Desideri, Studio Practice, 2016.

5:00 - 6:30 pm
Conversation with Josep Rafanell i Orra, Dora García, Mathilde Villeneuve and Alexandra Baudelot

6:30 - 7:00 pm
Closing debate


[1] Davies, Will: The Happiness Industry: How the Government and Big Business Sold Us Wellbeing. London: Verso, 2015.

[2] Preciado, Beatriz: Testo Junkie: Sex, Drugs, and Biopolitics in the Pharmacopornographic Era. New York: Feminist Press, City University of New York, 2013, p. 205-207