Scent marks and territories: cultural artefacts


Session Title:

  • Sensory Body (Panels & Roundtables)

Presentation Title:

  • Scent marks and territories: cultural artefacts




  • Smell can be understood as a cultural phenomenon, historically signified, enforcing social structures or transgressing them, creating social bonds – empowering or disempowering people. Odours, unlike colours, for instance, cannot be named, only described; in the realm of olfaction, we must make do with descriptions, analogies and recollections. From natural environments to urban spaces, the large variety of odours can stimulate our olfactory senses and evoke experiences, in which pleasant and unpleasant, and even non-smelling scents, can be combined as parameters of spatial limits and redefine social relationships with each other and with the place. The aim of this panel is to articulate artists and researches to discuss about cultural and social aspects of smells and odours, and their potential to reconfigure and create aesthetic atributes to spatial orientations. The attempt to classify the use of smell is determinant to think about perceiving and apprehending the world and human interactions. That is, it refers to the use of scents in ritual and everyday contexts, with the potential perspective of transforming or reshaping the world. Jenny Marketou, Josely Carvalho, Luisa Paraguai, and Nina Leo are going to present their researches about understanding, describing, and mapping physical spaces, social bonds, and cultural perceptions through smells. Jenny Marketou with “Nosing Around” presents her art works Smell IT: A Do-it-Yourself smell map and Smell You /Smell Me, and discuss translations of the olfactory system to the visual and linguistic and reveals something about cultural perceptions and valuations of smell in our society. Josely Carvalho with “From a Memory of a Smell to the Smells of Memories” presents her works with smells to discuss about places and memories, evoking relationships and emotional bonds. Luisa Paraguai proposes with “Scent objects: designing spaIaliIes through smells” the confront with other people through different smells to inspire and share particular kinds of presences, and maybe to create emotional reactions – as attitudes of attraction or repulsion. Nina Leo examines with the text “The Politics of Smell: how scent technologies are affecting the way we experience space, our sense of place and one another” how advancements in smell simulation technologies are being used and manipulated, not simply by corporations as an elusive marketing tool, but by governments to support and promote their agenda of war. And, how these technologies are also changing and challenging artistic practice as artists begin to question and counter with research and agendas of their own.