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Smell Colour Sketch: Brooklyn

Lefebvre writes, ‘When an intimacy occurs between “subject” and “object”, it must surely be the world of smell and the places they reside’ (1991 p.197). A smellwalk around a single Brooklyn block explored this experience of immediacy and transfer between the apparently brave (sniffer) and seeming unpalatable (trash can) to discover the unexpected odour (minty gum).

Smellsketch Brooklyn is an allusive smell colour sketch with verbatim descriptions from a single block smellwalk in September 2014. The block was chosen by local residents as representative of re-zoning and ‘typical’ in the neighbourhood.

One participant, Julie Hecht writes about how pairing and sharing smell experience altered her understanding of one temporality of sensory perception, “Being paired with a buddy taught me that I will not always smell what you smell. Sometimes that’s because the odor is moving, like the passing of cigarette smoke or recently made pad thai — the smell is intense when fresh, but you might miss it if you walk over even a minute or two later…”

In the New York Times coverage of the experience Vivian Yee also writes of the contested nature of smell perception during the walk as, ‘The group hovered some more, undecided.’

Featured in this initial sketch are some creative descriptors for the intimacy of the our personal connection with olfactory neighbourhood sensing, encounters with the smaller and individualised scents of the city through a paired walking. A further layer embedded through the typography in the sketch is a comment from one smellwalker who says that on the corner of Bedford Ave and 5th there is a “Translucent” smell. Smell as an invisible cloak that surrounds objects lending them character.

Photo credits ©2014 Brian Harkin