We Follow Our Noses
We Follow Our Noses is a web project that investigates the highly potent yet subjective relationship between smell and memory. This work was inspired by Sadakichi Hartmannn's A Trip to Japan in Sixteen Minutes and In Perfume Land, two "failed" experiments which sought to audiences on a scent-directed journey. Hartmann theorized that certain aromas are linked to specific places, and so by exposing individuals to these aromas he could create the illusion of travel. What he failed to realize was that smell, perhaps more than any other sense, links to memory in a nuanced and highly subjective way. While the scent of violets made Hartmann think of Germany, this wasn't necessarily the case for everyone else.
We Follow Our Noses is a playful attempt to recognize and archive the stories that Hartmann ignored. Human beings have as many as 400 unique scent receptors, but a study by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh have found this can be reduced to ten unique scenets. Using this theory, We Follow Our Noses developed an all-encompassing scent, named the "omnismell," using these ten components. As smell offers a unique connection to memory, the omnismell could trigger the recollection of any place or time. Anonymous participants were asked to smell this compound and then share their memories. The transcribed results, spanning a distance of nearly 40 years and 4000 kilometres, suggests just how limitless our scent memories might be.
I developed We Follow Our Noses as a graduate student at York University and was responsible for all content.