Ola Hassanain

how shall we live?

Ola Hassanain

how shall we live?
White text on black graphics


Ola Hassanain


how shall we live?


Photo, text, design and video (25’’)



More info:

@olahassanain (Instagram)

Video (1920 x 1080), colour, sound, 25’’
Part of Multimedia Project: A thought of the Outside, a commission by Chicago Architecture Biennale (United States)  

A conversation had ensued between us in a dim lighted room. We argued over how we can cultivate spaces of self-determination, agency and the places/conditions in which such spaces can be identified under the pandemic. We are in a space where discussions always ensue, we continue to talk about collectiveness and shared goals. We sit around in a circle, very close, shoulder to shoulder; the air is heavy and the scent of fresh brewed tea fills the gaps in between our bodies. I speak so well, and I say:

“This discussion requires that we collectively recognise the dilemma in using contaminated words like ‘solidarity’ and ‘together’ and address the presumed neutrality about the places from which power can collectively form. What makes the current calls for collective movement seem like a promissory note? Maybe because there have been times in our histories were people managed to collectivise, come together only to face the State’s terror as powerless individuals. What makes these times any different for us? The discussion came down to a junction, where we had to distinguish between ‘the power agency has’ and the ‘agency that power’ has.’”

I look around at everyone’s faces. Some make eye-contact and some eyes drift away from me and look down. I sense the time I have here maybe short, what can I say or do that can help me stay longer. I look up and see the others moving forward. But it doesn’t’ phase me. I do not feel scared, the smell of tea has vanished and now the stench of wet carpet and a poorly ventilated room overwhelms the space of our gathering.                                                         

The space transforms, it keeps changing. A hybrid space maybe? Like what Sylvia Wynter calls hybrid human, can we change? Can some of us become the bees, frogs and birds?                         

How can we imagine the world? they asked. I wonder if they had this place in mind. Could they conjure up a space like what we have now?                  

A space that has no beginning nor end, a space of no conceived time. Some say this is blasphemous, the biggest sin is to spiral away from time. I am full of sin.

The biggest sin is to demand labour off of exhausted bodies.                                     

In this space we can rest. We can stop time. Time should never pass you by when you rest, in this space, time stays still and waits for you, everything is still with you. A new world should be emptied of beginnings, as a site for emerging as beings...

Promissory Notes


Graphics showing demonstration routes taken by the crowds in the Sudanese Revolution that kicked off in 2018, each route followed a specific theme set by the SPA (Sudanese Professionals Association) beforehand. The routes reflect a different reading of the urbanscape of Khartoum City as well as a reading premised on people's localities and their instantaneous strategizing.

Designs, 2019

Reflections, Two still frames from the video of the same name (1920 x 1080, colour, sound, 7’), 2019
Reflections, Two still frames from the video of the same name (1920 x 1080, colour, sound, 7’), 2019

Two still frames from the video of the same name (1920 x 1080, colour, sound, 7’)


Ola Hassanain (Khartoum, Sudan, 1985), is an artist that lives and works between Khartoum and Utrecht (Netherlands).

Early in her architecture career, Ola Hassanain developed a growing sense of frustration over the gap between architectural theory and the real-world actualities of the built environment. As she pursued advanced degrees, she trained her focus on the subtle politics of space. When her family scattered across the globe due to economic collapse in Sudan, her fascination with the ways the built environment reflects, responds to, and shapes the lives of those who inhabit it increased. Her most recent work explores the idea of “space as discourse”, an expanded notion of space that encompasses political and environmental questions. Hassanain’s honors include the University of Westminster’s Quintin Hogg Trust scholarship (United Kingdom), a BAK-basis voor actuele kunst fellowship (Netherlands), and a Prince Claus Fund for Culture and Development grant (Netherlands). She is currently a PhD candidate at the Academy of Fine Arts of Vienna (Austria).