COMMUNITY ––– MOROCCO
Hicham Bouzid spent two years searching for the perfect premises to house the new headquarters for Think Tanger. Having co-founded the non-profit cultural agency in 2016, he had since been running it from a former fish market in downtown Tangier, organising artist residencies within the space alongside a programme of talks and workshops for the community.
When the organisation and its ever- expanding programme of cultural activities began outgrowing the site, Bouzid made it his mission to find a new, larger centre of operations. He eventually stumbled on an empty café, which once housed the city’s first chess club, in Tangier’s Spanish quarter and set about renovating it: laying a new terrazzo floor and installing custom-made tiles, bookshelves and wooden furnishings.
The work took Bouzid and his team about a year and there were various pre-launch parties and events before it officially opened to the public in 2023. Known as Kiosk, it houses workspaces for the Think Tanger team as well as providing a meeting point for all their outreach work by hosting all manner of talks, workshops and screenings. “Now we have somewhere we can invite urban planners, artists, architects and researchers to give talks about cities to our community,” says Bouzid.
Bouzid is currently putting together the 2024 programme, which he says will have an increased focus on the intersection of artificial intelligence (AI) and urbanism. “We’ve invited various people from the tech world to discuss the dynamic between AI and cities, and how we can work with it.”
Think Tanger also produces small, risograph-printed publications in collaboration with visiting cultural practitioners, as well as its own annual magazine, Makan. All are on sale at the space’s bookshop. “Alongside our own publications, we stock books and magazines from small, independent publishers, mostly from within the mena [Middle East and North Africa] region,” says Bouzid. “The topics they cover are basically all an extension of what we do at Think Tanger, discussing subjects such as art, architecture, urbanism, decolonisation and graphic design.” Titles are available in a mix of Arabic, French and English; visitors are encouraged to use the space as a reading room as well as a shop.
What’s most important to Bouzid is that Kiosk remains accessible to people from a cross-section of generations and backgrounds. “One of the things I’m most proud of is how we’ve become a melting pot of so many different communities,” he says. “It’s a rare thing here. We’ve managed
“Now we have somewhere we can invite urban planners, artists, architects and researchers to give talks about cities to our community”
to achieve this because we’ve been working for several years with people in areas of the city that don’t generally have much access to arts and culture. So they’re already aware of us and what we’re doing.”
With the launch of an on-site café later in the year, Bouzid hopes that Kiosk will be able to draw even more of the community. “We’re still a small team, so we’re moving in baby steps,” he says. “But we already have a beautiful counter ready to serve visitors. We’re excited to start putting it to good use.”
BOOKS ––– CANADA
Author and activist
Award-winning Canadian author, activist and filmmaker Naomi Klein’s latest book, Doppelganger: A Trip Into the Mirror World, is out now, published by Penguin. It’s a thoughtful and funny exploration of duality that also tackles the rise of conspiracy theories and far-right views.
What is a doppelganger and who is yours?
It’s the idea that there is another “you” walking around somewhere. My experience of having a doppelganger relates to other people perennially mixing me up with [conspiracy theorist] Naomi Wolf.
So what made you think about confronting your own reflection?
It’s a funny thing when you have a doppelganger who’s nothing like you; to have this shadow that’s not in your control. She [Wolf] was writing about her orgasms and was, let’s say, “a little looser” with her sources. Then she was at the vanguard of coronavirus conspiracies. That’s when I lost all control. I was hurt, I felt, “What have I spent my life doing creating this sort of self that can just disappear through the actions of someone else?”
What did you do?
I wrote Doppelganger to take control of my own life and try to make some sense of it.
For the full interview, listen to episode 409 of ‘Meet the Writers’ on Monocle Radio.
HISTORY ––– AMSTERDAM
The Odeuropa research project has encouraged Europe’s art institutions to add an olfactory element to their displays. Julia Webster Ayuso picks up the scent.
“Does this capture ‘hell’ for you?” asks art historian Sofia Collette Ehrich, as she hands out finger-pump diffusers to participants in the Trippenhuis, home of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences in Amsterdam. We tentatively raise the devices, which emit an unpleasant, smoky odour of indole and skatole (both faecal scents). The reaction among attendees – students, academics and museum curators – is almost unanimously of disgust. “That’s hell,” confirms one woman.
Between 2021 and 2023, Ehrich and an international team of researchers explored past and present scents as part of the €2.8m Odeuropa project. Researchers and academics used artificial intelligence to comb through thousands of images and texts from 1600 to 1920 in order to pick up references to smells and build a digital library of European odours, the Encyclopedia of Smell History and Heritage, which is publicly available online.
Once catalogued, some scents were preserved or recreated, encouraging curators to incorporate odours in museum exhibitions, making visits more immersive. The scent of hell – a “fantastical” representation of what the underworld was thought to have smelled like – was designed to accompany “Christ in Limbo”, a 1549 oil painting by Martin Schaffner at the Museum Ulm. “Fundamentally, what a lot of people want to know when they’re interested in history is what it was like to be there – what it was like to be in the past,” says William Tullett, a lecturer in early modern history at the University of York, who is at the forefront of the encyclopedia project. “Smell is a critical component of that.” He has studied the significance of fragrances such as tea, frankincense and tobacco in European history, and says that our entire approach to smell has changed over time.
Since the 19th century, says Tullett, the museum experience has become predominantly visual. Most exhibitions involve looking at objects in galleries or reading texts and we are told to speak quietly and not touch, let alone sniff, anything. But this hasn’t always been the case. “In the 17th century, in the first museums, which were largely private collections, people would pick stuff up and taste it,” he says. Though the fact that historical objects are now more protected is largely a good thing, reintroducing smell into museums could open up all kinds of possibilities, helping us to better understand the past and lure a different kind of visitor. “Scent is a great draw for an exhibition because you have to be physically there to experience it,” says scent designer and olfactory curator Tasha Marks, the founder of avm Curiosities who has spent more than 10 years creating scents and promoting their unique role for cultural institutions such as the v&a. For a recent exhibition at the Museum of London Docklands, she recreated the smell of the East End’s commercial past, using interviews with dockworkers and research about the olfactory landscape of the Thames. “Scent allows a layer of interaction that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise,” she says. “It’s a great way to break down boundaries.”
In the hierarchy of the senses, smell has always been at the bottom of the list. Studies have shown that even our language reflects this: while we are used to describing images and sounds, when it comes to smell, our vocabulary is more limited. As a result, smells are not part of our cultural heritage, which is something that the Odeuropa project could help to change. In recent years, museums have opened up to experimenting with smells, and exhibitions including olfactory experiences have been hugely successful. In 2022, in an attempt to raise interest in part of its permanent collection, Madrid’s Prado Museum commissioned Spanish fashion and fragrance house Puig to create a series of scents to accompany “The Sense of Smell” by Jan Brueghel and Rubens, a painting that depicts more than 80 species of plants and flowers. The museum expected the exhibition to bring in about 100 people per day but after three months it was attracting more than 1,000. Whereas visitors who don’t know about the history of art might find it difficult to immerse themselves in a painting, smells are often more accessible because they are more dependent on personal experience. “With smell, there’s no wrong answer, so it’s quite liberating,” says Marks. “There’s no pressure to be correct; there’s only pressure to engage – and that’s very positive.”