I have a bad habit of automatically gravitating towards press releases of shows and I was definitely served at the Christopher Williams MoMA retrospective, with the hefty text handout, providing me with the title of the pieces, as well as the complete history of their provenance. “The Production Line of Happiness” (a title appropriated from a documentary on Jean Luc Godard) outlines the perspective of the artist or even of the commercial art director as he or she experiences behind the scenes of the process of production.
Low-hung images that are a mix of kitsch stock photography, appropriated imagery and “behind the scenes” where a light meter may be visible, forces the viewer to rethink the experience of an art exhibition. Referencing the "show" in general, with sections of walls cut out, they have been transported to MoMA from spaces in which the artist has previously exhibited. I didn’t understand the low-hanging of the works at first, but then I realized that this perplexity made me self-aware of my body as it experiences the exhibition, and my wondering of what is “normal” versus “abnormal” is deliberately posed by the artist, and a key to the understanding of the show.
This decomposition of the making of a show and then recomposition in the MoMA space is simultaneously a generous gift to the viewer, entrusting him or her with an overflow of information, but also a curse, as the viewer is still given a controlled - by Williams - and illusionary glimpse of the production process.
In addition, the artifice, the magic that subconsciously attracts us Art (with a capital A) is simply gone, pointing fun at the farce that is consumer culture. This transparency of the making of an “art show” becomes itself the farce that Williams critiques, as “The Production of Happiness” turns the framework into the work itself, and still succeeds at seducing the viewer.