The strong aesthetic photographic language of the series leads one towards understanding of the proposed formulas of happiness in Lithuania through archetypes, symbols and metaphors. The consciously constructed image, centered composition solutions and direct confrontation with the subject paradoxically create the impression of an encounter with an irrefutable fact. The fact that what we see in Mindaugas Azusilis’s project is the Bible of Lithuanian happiness. Yet this collection of images rather than texts is more of a rejection of what we understand as a happy life today, having lost awareness of reality. Our shallow attitude towards everything around us often seamlessly masks our everyday anxiety, yet the “happinesses” that the young artist’s photographs capture reveal themselves in all their naked material beauty here.
The need for happiness is very individual, yet here and now I feel tempted to address the feeling of being coerced, the duty to be happy. And although the need for happiness is programmed in each of us, the society and its value orientations inevitably influence its form and intensity. In the age of the construction and satisfaction of desires, the fear of being unhappy is probably the biggest obstacle to feeling happy, while the antonym of happiness has become the synonym of abnormality.
Happiness in Lithuania is a photographic typology of happiness, which lays bare banality, vanity, and the fact that we are content with the mere outward image of happiness. Although it contains a hint of irony, this project goes beyond national borders and calls for supporting the politics associated with the ethics of unwillingness. Paraphrased and recontextualised, the famous Frenchman Stéphane Hessel’s phrase “to create is to resist, to resist is to create” seems to inform the paradoxical determination to resist the imposed concept of happiness, which is precisely the essence of Mindaugas Azusilis’s work.
— Egle Deltuvaite
Wasif Munem was awarded a special prize by the Prix Pictet to document the struggles of people in Bangladesh who have lost practically all of their natural resources and ways of life as a result of short-sighted shrimp farming along the coastline. Text by Francis Hodgson.