Operation Pandemic Joy

Operation Pandemic Joy is a temporary public art event that took place during the Community Open House on September 14, 2003 in celebration of the Washington University Sesquicentennial.

Operation Pandemic Joy was conceived of as a full-scale, multi-media propaganda campaign that promotes joy. The methods and aesthetics of government war posters and billboards as well as World War II public service announcements and propagandistic material were important sources for the development of this project. Much of that source material focused on participation and citizen investment in the national effort.

“Glittering generalities” is the propaganda technique used by Operation Pandemic Joy. Glittering generalities are emotionally appealing words so closely associated with highly valued concepts and beliefs that they carry conviction without supporting information or reason. They appeal to such emotions as love of country, home; desire for peace, freedom, glory, honor, etc.

In perhaps ironic contrast to propaganda campaigns born out of wartime necessities, for instance the invasion of Afghanistan in the same year, Operation Pandemic Joy does not call for a nationalistic or political response. The campaign objective is a universal, timeless one and aimed in a directly humanistic sense to advocate joy. The philosophy is simple (perhaps even simplistic): a smile begets a smile (and we could all use a little more joy.)

Operation Pandemic Joy used a banner plane, printed parachutes, leaflets, and car magnets to distribute its message of universal joy. Many thanks to all of the crew members, volunteers, participants, and Washington University.

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