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Noëlle van den Dungen

happybirthdayto.[name], 2020

Dear [name],

I am 26 and I still don’t sleep well the night before my birthday. It is an annual moment where my thoughts and feelings are quite a mixed bag.

My own experiences were the starting point for this project. Since a year, I design and conduct ‘birthday sessions’ in which people can open up about their birthday experiences.

I find it fascinating to discuss the loaded moment of social conventions, expectations, emotions and reflections that are buried underneath a decorated layer of sweet cakes and brightly coloured plastic trash, together with people that can somehow relate to the concept ‘birthday’.

And so the happybirthdayto.[name] platform was born. An online space, situated between a research institute and a birthday party, wherein anyone with a date of birth is cordially invited. In this open archive birthday guests with different points of view can respond to the question ‘What does your birthday mean and how to deal with it?’. I am carefully gluing this daily life wisdom together, starting a collaborative ‘Philosophy of Birthdays’.

As the founding mother of happybirthdayto.[name],

(I am wishing you a) Happy Birthday,

Photos: Annie van der Werff

Noëlle van den Dungen (1993, NL) graduated from the Design Academy in Eindhoven in 2020. She is an artist and a product of diverse backgrounds as well in cultural roots (Dutch, Surinamese, French, Indonesian), as education (design, philosophy, fine arts) and upbringing (many places, many families). Noëlle is always searching for connecting factors in ordinary things; the ordinary is a treasure full of ‘hidden’ social conventions. With her artistic projects she questions how common the common actually is.