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28: Summer Streets Smellmapping Astor Place, NYC

Odours and opinions are the key components of a smellscape map, and New York has both in abundance.

Primary smell research, conducted via human sniffs, was gleaned from the noses of Summer Streets employees and Village Alliance during April, May and June 2017 resulting in a labelled Smellmap of the neighborhood.

In August 2017 installation visitors undertook smellwalks and were asked to superimpose their “smellervations” on top of the printed map in the form of graffiti.

Resulting layering of smells onto the map renders the smellscape as a dynamic and contested airspace.

Notable whiffs included “Gym people”, “pretentious coffee roast” and “food trucks – Halal and Chinese” as well as a “Wet, dusty dog”, “Phone booth” and “wet garbage bins”. The subway is a regular contender on the NYC smellscape radar – a smell propelled by warmth and air pushed through tunnels as noted in the following smellnote, “Stronger when the train passes under the sidewalk”. During the smellwalks one participant elected to differentiate the smells from four different bins and discovered them each to be quite unique putting pay to the myth that all garbage can be labelled reductively. Another sniffed passersby unbeknownst to them and recorded human smellscapes on New York’s streets.
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Date: 2017
Media & size: Digital print, 3048mm x 2286mm

2017 – “New York Department of Transportation: Summer Streets Project”, outdoor location at Astor Place, Manhattan over three weekends in August. On average 80,000 visitors per day.

Commissioned by:
Emily Colascco on behalf of New York Department of Transportation: Summer Streets 2017

Thanks to:
NYC DOT Art team, Village Alliance, Miriam Songster, Kirsten Magnani, Casey Otremba, Mair Salts, Phil Anthony