Say Hello Senses: SMELL

I began thinking more about how I can create my work in a way to induce relaxation and reassurance. Always baring in mind the subject matter that I am dealing with, I wanted to introduce more techniques that could work with my materials to ensure my viewers do not feel intimidated or anxious around my work.

I started to think abut how we as people interact with art and the different way our body helps us to react to something, later leading to a lasting impression. First of all is the most obvious one, being sight. Upon approaching a piece of art we immediately scan our eyes over whatever is in front of us trying to work it out. This led me to think about the rest of our senses and how these assist us in deciding whether something appeals to us or not. I found myself thinking a lot about our noses and how wonderful (and sometimes how terrifying) a smell can be, and how that links with our memories. Certain smells take you back to remember something that has already happened, mostly emotional memories. For example, the smell of a certain perfume may make you think of someone you once knew or loved. Or the smell of smoke or burning marshmallows reminds you of that time you went camping a few years ago. I wondered if there was ways that I could make something like this happen with my work.

This then opened up another argument in my head: would I want a lasting smell or a subtle smell? I could choose to include a smell that hits your senses so hard that you may not know exactly how to deal with it, but what would the relationship be with that and my pieces of work? If I am recreating cancerous cells using wool, would I want my viewers over whelmed with a smell, whether that is good or bad? I definitely wouldn’t use an insulting smell, as this would contradict my aims. I soon enough decided that I wanted to use something subtle, enticing and not too noticeable. Something that can be recognized by your own subconscious and draw you in to its origin.

I began to research into calming smells and aromas and also remedies that people use to relax themselves when tensions are high.

 Here are some that I found most interesting:

LEMON: Promotes concentration and has calming and clarifying properties that are helpful when you are feeling angry, anxious or run down. It also has antibacterial properties that boost the body’s immune system.

LAVENDER: This essential oil has calming properties that help control emotional stress. It has a soothing effect of nerves and relives nervous tension and depression, as well as treat migraines and headaches.

JASMINE: Also used to calm nerves, but this oil is also used as an antidepressant because of its uplifting capabilities that produce a feeling of confidence, optimism and revitalize energy.

ROSEMARY: In addition to improving memory retention, Rosemary has stimulating properties that fight physical exhaustion, headaches, and mental fatigue. It helps in the morning when you need to ‘get going’. Rosemary can also be used topically to relieve muscular pains and aches.

CINNAMON: The stimulating properties in Cinnamon can help fight mental fatigue and improve concentration and focus.

PEPPERMINT: It’s always best to try peppermint when you’re brainstorming. T’s an energy booster, so this scent invigorates the mind, promotes concentration and stimulates clear thinking.

All of these smells have similar properties that all promote and induce a healthy and calming atmosphere for those who are around it. But I need to ask myself which of these best suit the ‘personality’ of my tumours. I found myself wanting to know which of these were more effective and started to think of how I could test this out.

THE EXPERIMENT: After a little while brainstorming I came up with a little plan on how I can test out which of these smells has that largest effect on a persons mood. I wanted to conduct my own experiment, manageable in the studios.

I would make a knitted ball for each smell to be contained inside. I would then rally up a group of willing participants and assign a ‘smell ball’ to each person. The purpose of the ball would be to place it on their desks/ personal space, each at (as close to) equal distances. The people that would take part in this would be people I knew would be in the studios all day and for similar periods of time. This is so I can get as accurate results as possible. At the end of the day I would then spend some time asking participants if they felt any differences in how they performed throughout the day, or if they felt nothing at all.


I began to think about the complications of this and what might affect my results. These mostly included participants removing themselves from where the smell balls are on their desk, for example leaving for lunch, a workshop or just having a walk about. And then something else that really stood out to me is actually briefing the subjects on the experiment, and how the conscious mind may have a part to play in this. Actually sitting down and explaining thoroughly the intentions of my project may cause the conscious mind to be aware of the desired results and therefore adjust the outcome. So I thought it may be a more successful experiment if I then kept the true outcomes hidden from those involved so that they are not consciously aware of the fact that there is something in their space that may or may not affect their performance that day. But, is this a pure experiment? Or am I getting far too into this? (Note to self: This is NOT a psychology course).


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