WORK IN PROGRESS
THE SECRET OF A HAPPY LIFE IN ABUNDANCE
The Secret of a Happy Life in Abundance is an excavation of happy moments in the artist’s life, reducing them down to simple actions that will be repeated at length to produce as much "happiness" in the body as possible.
Dealing with themes of depression and mental illness, the work questions if happiness is an attainable goal or really worth all the effort we expend to achieve it.
Through repeating actions to induce emotion (such as attempting to replicate the happiness a child feels when spinning in a circle) and performing them to extreme lengths, O’Mahoney corrupts the original intentions, and any joy that might have come is stripped away by time and repetition. The body aches, and the apathy and fatigue of depression return.
Performing these actions over and over again with almost manic enthusiasm, O’Mahoney aims to highlight the absurd lengths people go through to be happy, and how they can actually be self destructive.
Drawing from personal experiences with depression and anxiety, calmness and contentment have become the artist’s ideal state of being, as happiness is unattainable. The quest for happiness has often been more detrimental than beneficial to his mental health, leaving him in a greater state of depression or social anxiety. By performing these attempts and failures, O’Mahoney wants to communicate to audiences that the myth the happiness is a cure-all, and that embracing sadness, or settling for a lesser form of joy, is acceptable - offering collective reprieve from the burden the pursuit of happiness brings.
“The ‘pursuit of happiness’ is held as an inalienable right, and achieving it as the ultimate prize. I want to remove the idea of happiness as the be-all-end-all of life. The pursuit of happiness ignores the neuro-divergent community whose disorders impede them from achieving it. The neuro-div community is talked about least among other minority groups, and often treated without the same gravitas. Mental health is a common ground across minority groups, as oppression affects mental health by its very nature. By discussing mental health, and putting happiness on the back-burner, we can more critically examine systems of oppression and how they affect us.
I see the work eventually being performed by a myriad of different bodies from different backgrounds, recontextualizing the performance each time. How does the pursuit of happiness look on a white body versus a black one? A trans one? A Muslim one? How can happiness be achieved within systems of oppression? Is happiness really the goal we should be spending our time on? Is happiness worth it? “
The project will first be in development at The Watermill Center, the laboratory for the arts established by theatre director Robert Wilson, in late June 2019. While on-site, O’Mahoney will be focused on research and early development of the work, primarily beginning early movement of the piece.
From there, the work will be in development in September 2019 in Slovenia as part of the 2019 PARL (Performance Art Research Ljubljana) residency. While in Ljubljana, O’Mahoney will stage the work in its entirety, and take advantage of the program’s faculty for feedback and further development of the piece. Early explorations with sound and scenic design will come into play during this period as well.
After, O’Mahoney intends to return to New York and begin the search for a producer to assist in mounting early work-in-progress showings of the piece, with an aim to present the work in its final form by late 2020.
Once the project is mounted, as well as during any in-progress showings, O’Mahoney intends to hold artist-talkbacks and community conversations centered around the themes explored in the work; namely mental health and the pursuit of happiness and how it affects different communities.