Through Nov. 2, visitors to the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City may view The Production Line of Happiness, the first-ever retrospective of photographer and CalArts alumnus Christopher Williams’s (Art MFA 81) oeuvre, spanning his 35-year career.
The exhibit’s title is a nod to the subject of a 1976 Jean-Luc Godard documentary, a factory worker and amateur filmmaker who describes his filmmaking hobby as “the production line of happiness.” “In Williams’s hands,” says a press release, “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.”
One immediately compelling aspect of Williams’s process is his mastery of the forms and protocols of display. The exactingly considered, quite beautiful arrangements of walls and works in the show sparkle with wit…. An only mildly curious ten-minute tour will refresh your eye and spatial sense, as a car wash does a car. The most viable alternative approach requires hours of study.
The exhibit gathers not only Williams’s photography, which includes work from his magnum series For Example: Die Welt ist schön (The world is beautiful), but also his little-seen Super-8 film shorts, produced while a student at CalArts. Also present are extensive vinyl “supergraphics” and interventions with display architecture, including sections of walls cut out and transported from museums where Williams has previously shown.
In addition, Williams will organize a two-week experimental film program from Sept. 17–23, as part of MoMA’s Carte Blanche film series. On Sept. 15, as part of the museum’s Modern Mondays series, the artist will discuss his Super-8 films with Chief Curator of Media and Performance Art Stuart Comer.
Above are selected works from The Production Line of Happiness.
Christopher Williams: The Production Line of Happiness