The State of You

Scented smoke brought visitors’ memories rushing back in ‘The State of You’. Aisha Nasser Al-Sowaidi’s reflective piece examined how we cling to the past while our cities hurtle towards the future.

Aisha Nasser Al-Sowaidi’s installation, The State of You, was inspired by the sense of nostalgia that pervades life in a city such as Doha, which is in a process of constant, rapid reinvention.

Swathes of the Qatari capital’s urban fabric have been erased and remade in the past decade as the population has grown threefold. “The installation is about how a city can change and the idea of ‘home'” Al-Sowaidi said. “How much change can a familiar place take and still be familiar? How quickly do those changes become familiar themselves?” Visitors were invited to place their heads beneath seven dome-like “worlds”, each of which released a different scented smoke. The domes were lined with a patterned ceramic, evoking traditional Qatari architecture, but the outer shell was made from concrete, the dominant material used in Doha’s redevelopment.

The concrete also stood in contrast to the floating scents that it enveloped. “These two elements represent the past and the present: the non-physical past as smoke, and the physical ‘now’ as concrete,” said Al-Sowaidi. The smells were intended to create a unique experience for each visitor. “Feelings are universal – it’s the one language we all share – but different scents can inspire different feelings for every individual.”

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Photography: Ed Reeve



Aisha Nasser Al-Sowaidi

Supporting Body:

Qatar Museums

2018 Exhibitors