The installation is available from 21 March until 20 December.
Speaking about mental health, processing thoughts and untangling feelings can be a challenge, especially with the social stigma on the matter.
But starting a conversation can always be a starting point in breaking the stigma, which is what internationally renowned Swiss artist Pipilotti Rist is trying to achieve through her latest installment in Qatar.
“Your Brain to Me, My Brain to You” is a collaboration between the National Museum of Qatar (NMoQ) and Qatar’s Ministry of Public Health (MoPH). The exhibition provides visitors with a multisensory experience and a chance to dive into the complexity of the human brain.
“The idea was, following the pandemic, our lives changed… so keeping that in mind we were thinking about the mental state of everybody. We do realise that mental health is something we normally just don’t talk about,” NMoQ’s Head of Exhibitions, Bouthayna Baltaji, told Doha News.
Upon entering the exhibition, visitors are welcomed with a calm atmosphere that is softly lighted with 12,000 LED lights hung on cables in a dark room throughout the gallery. Each light represents neurons that are connected with their changing colours and pulsing movement.
“My message is use your museums as places where we can understand each other,” Rist told Doha News.
The installment is Rist’s latest and largest version of Pixel Forest, another immersive video installation that uses lighting to create a sense of dimensionality in a single space.
The flashing lights, however, may cause discomfort and trigger seizures amongst people who have photosensitive epilepsy and other conditions with sensitivity to light.
“On a large scale, it’s a collective emotional intelligence. One brain on its own is incredible, but bring together a whole community of minds that are educated, that are seeking this self-improvement and you have something that’s unstoppable,” said Baltaji.
A number of natural sounds keep playing in the background throughout the exhibition.
Rist said that her installation is a chance to get visitors to disconnect from their mobile phones and have plenty of time to contemplate their emotions. The artwork also projects a cultural element, with background noise representing Qatar’s history and landscape.
Another part of the exhibition includes an empty dark room that provides visitors the chance to express themselves on an empty black wall using glow-in-the-dark markers. The third, and last, stretch of the exhibition showcases an animated film for children to speak about mental health that is also open for adults to watch too.
With children being a crucial starting point in breaking the stigma on mental health, Sheikha Al-Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, Chairperson of Qatar Museums, said that the artwork will be permanently installed at Dadu, the Children’s Museum of Qatar.
The exhibition compliments the goals of the health ministry’s “Are You OK?” mental health campaign, which seeks to encourage the public to address issues related to their own mental wellbeing.
“This exhibition is a fantastic metaphor in terms of helping people to forget the stigma […] mental health is something that we should all think about. Looking after our mind and our own psychological wellbeing is essential if we want to be healthy,” said Iain Francis Tulley, Chief Executive at the Mental Health Service at the Hamad Medical Corporation.