A memorable location frequently evokes a sigh of nostalgia, or prompts a few offhand comments. Design alumna Olivia Clemence has added something else to that list—a bottle-able smell.
The Goldsmith’s graduate, has already managed to generate the smell of the National Exhibition Center in Birmingham, allegedly from Subway, sweat and other scents, the Southbank Center in London from industrial materials and a hypothetical Victorian pub, from gin, washing smells and the heady perfumes of prostitutes’ rooms and offices.
A regular feature at public events and expositions, she will often whip out her distilling kit and form a smell requested by her audience on the spot.
Clemence may also have sniffed out a fresh new method for retail marketing, whose current choice of stimuli–blaring music, glaring videos, and bright posters — can be so overwhelming to our senses that it can almost cause fatigue. She might be able to create scent-affiliated stores to lure in customers.
The former design student said she was inspired by a piece she came across in London’s Sunday Times, which featured a woman who had retained her father’s sweater after his death, as a way of ‘holding on.’ That snippet of information led her to ponder the idea of nostalgia in physical forms:
When keeping an item of clothing that belonged to a deceased loved one, it acts as an instant reminder; it can evoke many memories and a sense of nostalgia. By extracting the essential elements that are embedded within the garment — such as scent, colour and DNA — the original form would become obsolete. These three substances (scent, colour and DNA-rich ashes) would exist as a new form of memorials.
Her experiment began at home, where she started tinkering around to find out what would work best for distilling her chosen scents. She came up with the eventual design of her lab from fiddling about in her kitchen with “vegetable steam saucepans and various piping.”
Clemence’s work draws attention to the fact that humans have somewhat forgotten the power of their olfactory capacities. Artist Martynka Wawrzyniak, who fashioned an ‘aromatic self-portrait’ last year, noted that we daub ourselves in all kinds of product, killing our personal smell and letting our noses relax.
Even more so, smell can be an extremely informative avenue to a deeper knowledge about our locations. As Italian scientist Luca Turin says,
We breathe up to 24,000 times per day; we move 12.7 cubic metres of air. With every breath, we inhale smell molecules — information about our surroundings.
Time to put away the body scrub?
Images and credits: Wired UK