Carte des odeurs, Lausanne, Suisse

Investigating relationships, connections and temporalities between past and present through smell perception.

Three days of smellwalks took place early in June 2019 as part of the exhibition “Quel flair !”, curated by La musée de la main UNIL-CHUV. With a focus on smell and emotion, the year-long exhibition invites visitors to explore the incredible capacities of human olfaction, a sense that has long been underestimated by our species. Presenting a wide range of sensory experiences and artistic installations that echo it, the exhibition reveals the great sensitivity of the human sense of smell, the intimate connection between this sense and our emotions, as well as its unsung role in social communication.

Cartes des odeurs, Lausanne, Feuille 001 shows aggregated, perceived intensities of contemporary smells themed into categories: food, nature, ink, synthetic, urine, wood, oil, non-food items, combination, tobacco, metal, tea/coffee, and plastic/rubber. The depth of associated memory (now, recent, past, ancient, childhood) is reflected using a gradient which adds further depth to the tight contours of the Alpine lakeside city.

Carte des odeurs, Lausanne, Feuille 002 shows how daily smells in the city reactivate memories of the past which are not necessarily related to the current experience. In this mapping exercise in Lausanne 2019, food smells were often used as a reminder of other places and activities; from skiing in Valois to African family meals or street food in Turkey, while the scents of nature evoked climbing trees and forbidden crops. The odors of abundant street posters evoked school days and novels read in the sun on the beach, and contrasted with associations of synthetic perfumes, recorded as negative and “too strong”. Urine and poo gave rise to comical moments of unlucky walking and diapers. The wood smells in the city connected participants to their parents and, in more rural areas, industrial oil and pet smells evoking the freedom associated with family vacations and personal travel. From the historic coffee roasting on rue St-François to working with parents, to the daily smell of hands at the end of the day, these smells of the city recall the multiple temporalities that exist in a single human sniff.

Commissioned by: La musée de la main UNIL-CHUV
Curated by: Carolina Leibling
Smellwalk assistant: Cléa Masserey

Exhibition link: Quel flair !