For a long time the question of happiness was considered to be a matter for religion, philosophy or even politics. But today the pharmaceutical industry is using science, marketing and communication to provide a standardized response so that human aspirations can be fulfilled.

The idea of a magic pill conjures up many familiar images, e.g. Alice in Wonderland or The Matrix, and is seen as an almost magical response to help cope with moments of weakness, melancholy or other pressures on human existence. The promise of a chemical compound that is able to cure and transform provides the perfect metaphor for a Promethean society focusing on efficiency, power, youth and performance, a society where the appearance of happiness is almost as good as happiness itself, where appearance prevails over genuine feeling.


For five years, journalist Arnaud Robert and photographer Paolo Woods traveled the world seeking out Happy Pills, drugs able to ease the pain of human suffering, to achieve excitement, work, power, and action, with formulae capable of retrieving patients from the abyss of depression, with painkillers ingested by the working poor who are simply trying to feed their families. Everywhere around the world, whether in Niger, the United States, Switzerland, India, Israel or the Amazon, the Big Pharma world has expanded and is offering overnight solutions where once there were eternal problems. The exhibition features a series of photos plus ventures into social media, for an original presentation confronting us with our own relationship to medical drugs.

Happy Pills is also a book published by Delpire & Co. and a documentary film produced by Intermezzo/ARTE/RTS.

Exhibition produced by the Ferme des Tilleuls, Switzerland.

Paolo Woods

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Arnaud Robert

journalist, writter

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