The Media Majlis opens doors to Qatar’s first major metaverse exhibition

August 22, 2023
The Media Majlis at Northwestern University in Qatar has launched its seventh exhibition and Qatar’s first major presentation exploring the concept of the metaverse, MetaWhat?, at a community preview event hosted at the museum exhibition hall at Northwestern Qatar’s campus in Education City.
The exhibition, which will be open throughout fall 2023, explores the pitfalls and opportunities of an ever-changing digital media landscape while challenging structures imposed by the West and offering a view of this new technology from the perspectives of the Global South. At the preview event, faculty, students, and staff from Northwestern Qatar, as well as members of Qatar Foundation’s partner universities, contributors, local lenders, and local and international artists, celebrated the exhibition as it opened its doors to visitors.
Jack Thomas Taylor, interim director of The Media Majlis and curator of the exhibition, said the wide success of the opening of the exhibition reflects the growing interest in the topic of the metaverse. “No one truly understands what the metaverse is or its potential, but everyone is fascinated by this new technology and what it might mean for our future,” said Thomas Taylor. “Our fall 2023 exhibition dives deep into what it all means—and could mean—while putting a mirror up to our past and reflecting on the present.”
“As a university museum with distinctive capacities, The Media Majlis at Northwestern Qatar is best suited to explore the concept of the metaverse with its ambitions and audacity and explain the emerging virtual world and how it is transforming our lives,” said Marwan M. Kraidy, dean and CEO of Northwestern Qatar. “As we become enmeshed in ever more immersive digital spaces and cultures, and as platforms multiply and concepts proliferate, we need a guide that cuts through the chatter and offers new ways of grasping and imagining the mergers of social reality and virtual world. Our fall 2023 exhibition does exactly that.”
Visitors attending the exhibition will be introduced to five specially created avatar personalities who will take them on a journey through today’s online landscape through digital screens, hologram NFT displays, and virtual and augmented reality across five thematic installations. This includes MetaWorld, which unpacks the seven distinct layers that make up the metaverse, and MetaExperience, a captivating data visualization offering a glimpse of the growth and development of virtual land sales. Also, among the installations is MetaCreate, where visitors are encouraged to participate, build and create in a dedicated space, from playing Fortnite to learning how to (low)code.
Also on show throughout the exhibition are more than 100 nostalgic physical collectibles and several rare and valuable items on loan from international, regional, and local lenders, such as Ooredoo, Qatar Museums, Qatar National Library, and I Love Qatar Founder Khalifa Al Haroon. Objects on display include an early print of Super Mario Bros, the highest graded open-copy, with only one sealed copy existing with an estimated value of more than USD two million. For a more local flavor, there is also an Aladdins Kingdom token used in the 1990s as a form of currency in the popular theme park.
The display of collectibles also includes the result of a collaboration between Qatar-based company Astro Automotive Services and American artist Daniel Arsham. Last year, Arsham traveled to Qatar to race the Rally 911 of the Astro collection in the Brouq nature reserve, where Richard Serra’s East-West/West-East art installation lives, and on the back of this created the ERODED Safari collectible (1 of 500) and an exclusive photobook (1 of 2). The collectible is in the form of a model car that has been eroded by time and the elements, while the photo book is a digital documentation capturing the experience in a way the sculpture cannot.
Gaia, a touring artwork by celebrated British artist Luke Jerram, is also on public display at Northwestern Qatar’s Forum as part of the exhibition. Measuring six meters in diameter, Gaia features 120dpi detailed NASA imagery of the Earth’s surface. It is 2.1 million times smaller than the real Earth, with each centimeter of the internally lit inflatable sculpture depicting 21km of the globe’s surface, providing viewers the opportunity to see our planet floating in three dimensions.
“We are very honored to host Luke Jerram’s globally renowned artwork, and its placement in this exhibition encourages visitors to ask tough questions about how the metaverse could impact our physical existence,” said Taylor. “For example, can we contemplate an emergent virtual world where the boundaries of reality are blurred, and the impossible can become possible? Will the metaverse harm the environment or bring us closer to environmental sustainability? Can we rethink critical engagement across geographic, social, and political territories to engender alternative worldviews and propose more equitable and inclusive ways?”
Emirati TV personality and commentator Anas Bukhash is also encouraging visitors to question our future in Where do you stand?, a forum in which four well-known talents from the Arab world’s media landscape discuss their honest thoughts on the metaverse. This includes Aisha Bin Bishr, former director general of the Smart Dubai Office; Lebanese television presenter Wissam Breidy; Matthias Mende, founder of Bonuz Market, a web3 social engagement platform; and Sharifa Albarami, innovation consultant and Web3 media personality in Oman.
Underpinning all this is an AI-created mascot called MetaCat that was made using deep learning algorithms to pay homage to the internet’s love of felines while incorporating high-tech elements. Throughout the exhibition, it will engage with a variety of audiences to share knowledge in new and meaningful ways.
Meanwhile, a special edition of the museum’s edited publication, Voices and Conversations, shares knowledge by exploring key terms related to the metaverse. It examines how it can be harnessed as a power for good, from the perspectives of regional players in the digital landscape, featuring an A to Z of common words and phrases, as well as a foreword from Dean Kraidy, an introduction by the curator, interviews, a poem, and an end word by Professor Heather Jaber. It is now on sale in English and Arabic for QAR100, available online and at the university.
MetaWhat? is now open from Sunday - Thursday from 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. and will run until Thursday, December 7, 2023. The exhibition will be complemented by a weekend of talks, panel discussions, showcases, walkthroughs, and experiences to commence in October.
To learn more about the museum and its programs, visit