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O l f a c t o r y A u t o b i o g r a p h y
The Olfactory Autobiography installation consists of three parts, a personal data entry station, followed by the actual space where the participant experiences the scents he or she specified, and finally, the reaction room where participants are invited to share any responses they may have had during the experience.The memories and emotions evoked by our sense of smell are powerful and often surprising. A certain scent may transport you back to a specific place in time without warning. It may be impossible to predict what type of response you may have to a particular scent, but the simple activity of linking certain scents to common ideas is bound to prompt a reaction upon exposure to those scents.
The Personal Data Entry Station consists of a computer monitor and keyboard where participants will enter their responses to a series of questions. The first set of questions relates to the participant's age, gender, ethnicity, and geographical history. The second section consists of a list of words, each of which the participant will assign a scent. The words are very basic in order to increase the chances of the participant's ability to easily associate a scent with the majority of the words. Upon completion, the data is processed and scent synthesization begins.
The actual Olfactory Autobiography space is essentially a large black box designed to deprive the participant from receiving any sensory information besides smell. It has been proven that when one or more of the senses is inhibited, the others are heightened. Receiving any unrelated visual or audio information would only serve to distract the participant as this piece is designed to evoke a strong personal emotional response. After entering the space, the participant is seated in a reclining chair centrally located in the room. The lights dim and all sound is stifled except for the faint whir of fans forcing the scents into the room.
The actual experience will last around 10 minutes not only to allow for the participant to recognize and process the scent, but also to allow for the equipment to transition from one scent to the next.
After the cycle is complete, the room is illuminated slowly and all scent is neutralized. Finally, the participant will be asked to share their experiences, particularly any surprising emotional reactions.
The Olfactory Autobiography installation is designed to travel to numerous sites around the world. In the end, it will have amassed a great amount of information about scent associations as well as experiences and reactions to those scents. The results will provide an interesting look into the ways an individual's culture and geographic history may play a role in determining how they are affected by certain scents.
Art: Clara Ursitti
Science: Dr. Rachel Herz
Technology: Articles about DigiScents and iSmell
Random Scent Links:
International Flavors and Frangrances - http://www.iff.com
RealAroma - http://www.realaroma.com/