Why is the debate around smoking so dichotomous?

Perceiving ¬P

An immersive installation to explore the act of smoking from different perspectives

July 2018 – Jan 2019 | Solo project
Wood, tiles, plastic, metal, fabric, clay, glass, paper, oil, air compressor, etc.
As a non-smoker, I thought smoking was just bad for you. End of story.

Hmm. Is it?

When I spoke to Rudy, he told me that the one cigarette he smokes at the end of each day helps him to recap his mental images and remember the ones that are “little goodnesses” in his life. That’s when I realised there is a story behind every smoker.


Perceiving ¬P is an installation to rethink the act of smoking from different perspectives. Embedded into the walls of the white space are symbolic objects representing ten stories about smoking told by ten people (smokers and non-smokers). In the centre is a tank aimed to induce the state of mind smokers experience during smoking.

The title and the logo expresses the concept: understanding people with different perspectives to yours. “¬” is a sign of negation, and ”P” stands for “proposition”, ”people”, and “perspectives”.

Ten narrative objects representing stories about smoking encourages viewers to empathise with different perspectives. Next to each object is a caption showing the interview notes and sketches I drew from those words that lead to the object, allowing viewers to follow my narrative process.

In order to prevent direct association to smoking prompting preconceptions, I used white tiles for a neutral impression.

In the centre of the installation is a tank filled with some viscous transparent liquid, producing bubbles that permeate upwards in a very organic manner. Focusing on the unpredictable transformations of the bubbles, viewers may experience a meditative sensation, which is similar to what smokers experience during smoking.

I also attempted to integrate the more meta aspects of the project into the exhibit through posters that articulated the what, why, what I learnt, and future outlook. I compiled a detailed timeline of the project that outlined the process from inspiration and concept, through to fabrication, highlighting the key milestones.

Some quotes from visitors...

“It made me think that I can’t deem tobacco as the absolute evil”

“As I watched the acrylic tank, I felt like I vaguely understood how my dad feels”

“I feel like I will start thinking about the story behind smokers whenever I see them”

Installation view at Tokyo University of the Arts Graduation Works Exhibition 2019

© 2023 Lisa Aoyama