At Media City Seoul 2010

La poursuite du Bonheur / Pursuit of Happiness (2003)

video installation

Seoul Museum of Art, Gallery 3-E

Artist Profile

Born 1940; Lives and works in Berlin

Jimmie Durham’s art practice—spanning performance, video, sculpture, two-dimensional works and writing—wryly undermines the stability and structure of belief and ideology. Durham’s work resists staking claim to a single narrative or idea in favor of creating conditions for action, interruption, and disturbance. Whether working with natural objects like rocks and fossils or man-made ones such as the single-engine airplane, Durham makes use of things from the physical world in an effort to evidence and upset a state of inertia, the status quo.

Durham’s film La poursuite du Bonheur / Pursuit of Happiness is a lighthearted and poignant work that subtly destabilizes certain assumptions about his art practice, which are often based on his background. Using the narrative arc and sensibility of a modern-day folk tale, the camera follows the journey of a young American Indian protagonist. With unclear intentions, the protagonist strolls through a field to an empty road, collecting various items as he goes. Because Durham is a member of the Cherokee tribe and a contemporary artist, there has been a tendency to approach the film through his personal experiences. Texts about his practice often cite his work as director of the American Indian Movement’s International Indian Treaty Council as a significant, if not defining moment for the artist. So are his move to Mexico from the United States, his vow to never again set foot on American soil, and his penchant for what is often described as a peripatetic life.


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