SENSITIVE UPGRADE: SENSE OF SMELL AS A POWER
In our SHOP you can find a series of smells of the "Museums". We offer a new conscious communication. And we invite you to dive into our three stories about Atlanta. We propose to look at these places through the prism of other sensors. When you get into a completely new place, your nose tells you that it's "safe" here. Nose gets information from unexpected places while your eyes are late. Why we do not notice how exactly we identify places, time, objects and other subjects?
We take 24,000 breaths a day and this is the only process in which we can not take a break. We believe that we have the ability consciously extract more information from the environment in order to make decisions, communicate more effectively and develop tolerance. Through the creation of experimental scenarios, artifacts, and media, we explore the phenomenon of our sense of smell and how to use it creatively.
ZAPAH lab is a collaboration that is both artistic and scientific. In Sensitive Upgrade (smellwalk at March, 2017) we shared the results of smellscape experiments from three major art institutions in the city of Atlanta: The Atlanta Contemporary, the Museum of Design and the High Museum of Art. We aim to train our natural stunning software - the sense of smell - and we offer you a space in the flask where you can reflect. Where you can manipulate your imagination, the sense of time and predetermine your attitude to spaces, like museums. We radically draw attention to the fact that the nose a system that requires training, just like our language and muscles.
stages of our experience: Structure and elements
The “smellscape walks” were simultaneously challenging and paradoxical process. We had to hone our awareness and attention to our surroundings, but found that we were immediately also engaged with our emotional landscape. Emotions happened to us spontaneously because we were disconnected from our usual and rationalized visual and auditory cues. The challenge became to be both sensitive and critical while being focused on the process of research.
We explored the interiors and the exteriors of the chosen locations. We warned museum staff that we would sniff their walls and works of art, their trees and doors, so they wouldn’t think we were crazy.
We sniffed everything. It was interesting to discover that we would find ourselves at the source of the smell catching its completeness and details, before we were consciously aware of the object itself. Often, we received the information as a smell and followed it to its source (For example, the smell of dollar bills. Later we found that their smell remind of cocaine and seaweed at the same time).
We recorded notes in a lab book every time. The words we used to describe each experience were varied- name of the source, but and character, texture, etc. It was important not to define the smell by our subjective past experience but just to “meet” the smell as it was in its present environment. Often it is difficult to describe smells, we do not have a dictionary for this: they remind us of the past, situations, and even other places or people, positive or negative associations, we like it or dislike.
We analyzed. Data that we collected in our walks is temporal because smell dissipates, evaporates, diffuses and disappears, what we retain is a memory. To preserve the experience we gathered some samples and artifacts to make a tincture and to encapsulate the smell of that day. We take photos and continue to explore the found plants, if they are unknown to us. From the numerous data we make selection of the most characteristic features on the basis of which the following components suitable for the same associations will be selected. From the data we make selection of the most characteristic features, on their basis will be selected components suitable for the same basic molecule / characteristic / associations.
We selected the ingredients and mixed them based on a combination of perceived smell intensity (or the physical size of the source). We didn’t copy reality, but we did create an amalgamation of all of the odors that we found and put them into a bottle. We focused on constant sources of smells, but also we consciously paid attention to the temporary sources if appropriate for the concept.
What we smell from the bottle, it's completely different than when we go through space and get the same information portion by piece. From the composition, all molecules attack us simultaneously. This is an exciting rebus for our imagination.
It is important to note that analysis and selection are not empirical, they are based on intersections: of design and chemistry, linguistics, psychology, neurobiology. Each smellscape map is different — the smells can be temporary or weather-dependent, but more significantly the process each smell-walker or cartographer uses is shaped by their individual genes, experience, and cultural context. This is to say that there can be no single smell-map.
MANY REASONS YOU MIGHT KNOW YOUR NOSE
Research of olfaction began just over 20 years ago. It is closely related to the sense of taste because food contains odor bearing molecules which we sense as we put a piece of food in our mouth, the molecules are then raised into the olfactory epithelium. We are constantly receiving information through odors, even as we sleep we continue to receive and process this information.
Did you know that we do not smell with our nose? Rather, we smell with a small, thin sheet of cells high up in the nasal cavity called the olfactory epithelium which is part of the brain between eyes and nose. After the receptors have captured molecules and sent electrical signals to the brain. And further works a complex scheme of memories and emotions.
Perhaps we fail to use our sense of smell as much as we should because we’re so zoned out or it is that we underrate this sense in particular because it seems so superfluous. On some level it seems we’re just untrained.
The experiences of these walks were full of powerful discoveries and provided us with new knowledge during the event as well as much later. Atlanta is a space of diversity: languages, cultures, ideologies, nature and urbanisation. Our ability to train our sense of smell provides us an opportunity to have a deeper interaction and understanding of our environment. We can discover and share a more nuanced world with our children in order to foster openness and tolerance. We can learn to perceive smells not through prejudice, but receive information from them, to meet them where they are.
NOSE - UNTRAINED SOFTWARE
Any valuation of odor is derived purely from cultural prejudices and the untrained software of our body - our sense of smell. There are no genes that define "good" or "bad" smells. Our brain uses receptors and perceives molecules, just like we don’t see a wave of color or a vibration of sound. We simply perceive information only after the brain has interpreted it and given it definition.
For example, today we know that we have only three color genes - red, blue and green. Thanks to only 3 colors, we perceive such a rich palette. But fasten your seatbelts - we have 400 receptors to smell! Each receptor can interpret several different molecules due to a combination of proteins, it reminds coding. Scientists have tried to determine the resolution of the human sense of smell by testing human capacity to discriminate odor mixtures with varying numbers of shared components. On the basis of the results of this testing it was calculated that humans can distinguish at least 1 trillion olfactory stimuli. This demonstrates that the human olfactory system, with its hundreds of different receptors, far outperforms the other senses in the number of physically different stimuli it can distinguish. This is significant because smell is more than just air-born particles, more than a navigational tool, more than the air in your lungs - it is your appetite, your relationship to the outside world and your very self.
Our odor sensors can simultaneously distinguish different subtle flavors because each molecule has place in space and at some of the receptors. It's not like music or video that evolves in time, but all the molecules and smells talk to us at the same time when we sniff, usually we don't pay attention. We still know almost nothing about this phenomenal sensor - olfaction and olfactory pathways, through which we can better explain how smell affects behavior. The result is that, while smell is deeply tied to our moods, memories, behavior, and even sense of place, we actually live in isolated and uncharted olfactory universes, lacking something as basic as a shared language with which to describe them to each other.
TRICKY BRAIN DATABASE
Our memory and emotions are based on an intricate and individual system with a complex set of data. Our memory of smells is a database that began to fill when we were in the womb. When we first experience new molecules, they are often powerfully fixed in our memory and colored by the emotions that we experienced at the time of receiving this information. If you inhale the smell of incense and remember your first visit to the church, and maybe it was stressful or maybe soothing, just because this association was first firmly established in your childhood you will find yourself experiencing the same emotion. We operate often based on visual data, but the most efficient way to store memory is through smell. We store all of these smell memories in our subconscious but have access to at most twenty per cent of this information. Humans can remember: 5% of what we see, 2% of what we hear, 1% of what we touch, 35% of what we smell.