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Jonathan Harris April 19, 2014

Posted by Geoffrey Hiller in Bhutan.

Sonam Wangmo talks about happiness in Bhutan 2007

Jonathan Harris (b. 1979, USA) studied computer science and photography at Princeton University. His projects include We Feel Fine, a search engine for human emotions; I Want You To Want Me, an installation about online dating; Cowbird, a public library of human experience; 10 x 10, a system for encapsulating moments in time; The Whale Hunt, a series of photographs timed to match his heartbeat; and I Love Your Work, an interactive film about the daily lives of sex workers. He won a 2005 Fabrica fellowship and three Webby Awards. Print Magazine named him a “2008 New Visual Artist,” and TIME Magazine named his project, Cowbird, one of the “50 Best Websites of 2012.” Jonathan’s work has been exhibited all over the world, including at MoMA (New York), Le Centre Pompidou (Paris), the Victoria and Albert Museum (London), the Central Academy of Fine Arts (Beijing). He has lectured about his work at the TED Conference, MoMA, Google, The New York Times, The World Economic Forum, the Sundance Film Festival, Princeton, Stanford, Columbia, and Yale Universities, and The Rhode Island School of Design.

About the Project:

Balloons of Bhutan is a portrait of happiness in the last Himalayan kingdom. Bhutan uses “Gross National Happiness’ instead of ‘Gross National Product’ to measure its socio-economic prosperity, essentially organizing its national agenda around the basic tenets of Buddhism. In late 2007, I spent two weeks in Bhutan, interviewing 117 people about different aspects of happiness. I asked people to rate their level of happiness between one and ten, and then inflated that number of balloons, so very happy people would be given ten balloons, and very sad people would be given only one. I also asked each person to make a wish, and then wrote that wish on a balloon of their favorite color. On the final night, all 117 wish balloons were re-inflated and strung up at Dochula, a sacred mountain pass at 10,000 feet, and left to bob up and down in the wind, mingling with thousands of strands of prayer flags. Balloons of Bhutan was sponsored by the Bhutan Youth Development Fund, an NGO working to provide opportunities for local Bhutanese youth.”