The Downwind installation is composed of twenty pods that sense human presence and respond by breathing smells on the audience.
Downwind explores our differences in olfactory sensitivity and selectivity due to the genetic basis of human olfactory variability and the perception of odiferous sequences in changed contexts.
The revolutionary wind of genetic discovery suggests that we may not all be perceiving the same reality.
Downwind questions whether a somatic understanding of the current atmosphere could be reached by initially finding out individual olfactory capabilities. To increase our ability to perceive the information of new technologies of chemical signals not just with the nose but with the gut it may be necessary to retrain one’s olfactory sense and to note the feelings and emotions that arise from olfactory materials, whether natural, synthetic or engineered.
It may become possible to perceive the human plume which trails downwind from each body carrying with it signature odours and olfactory architectures which are the fragrances of our civilisation and times. They are the olfactory cyphers of change, yet sensing them is defined by a combination of genetics and personal experiences.
We’re referring to scientific research in olfaction, specifically the behaviour-changing signals of smell using scientific olfactory discovery, processes and engineering, and beginning with fugitive smell compounds as well as ones known to elicit specific anosmias--the inability for some people to smell a particular odour that others can easily detect.
The pods sense human presence and respond by expressing controlled delivery of 20 specifically chosen smell compounds in calibrated amounts via a programmed mechanism that uses arduinos, servo motors, ultrasonic distance sensors.
Alongside the pods are devices that dispense grains of sugar. Sweetness has been suggested to assist perception of smells by amplifying the olfactory sense.
Thanks to Creative New Zealand Arts Board, Monell Chemical Senses Center, Philadelphia, USA, Fulbright NZ, Dr. Richard D. Newcomb, Plant & Food Research, NZ, Chris Davison, ISEA
Exhibited at ISEA2013 public program Resistance is Futile: Curatorial Theme: : Ecologies and Technologies, Sydney.
Over the past 2 years we’ve collaboratively created experiments around olfactory perception
We approached Downwind with a series of investigations and experiments which included looking into scientific practice in the labs, human/body sensation and the quantitative and qualitative analysis of data captured from sensors to create cross-sensory correspondences.
We use a range of materials which encompass odiferous materials, engineering, sensors, microprocessors and software, mechatronics and everyday objects to create instruments for our experiments.
Brian Harris has been devising computer controlled mechanisms and embedded devices most of his life. He studied science and electronics. An independent designer, he creates large scale finely tuned adaptive mechatronics and bespoke equipment. His inventions for motion control, stabilising camera mounts for aerial photography and robotic trajectories are used in local and international tv commercial and film productions.
Raewyn Turner’s interdisciplinary work is concerned with cross-sensory perception and the uncharted territories of the senses. Her works have been shown in numerous national and international exhibitions including Museum of Contemporary Art, LA, Parque de las Ciencias, Granada, Spain, 11th Prague Quadrennial of Scenography and Theatre Architecture 2007,Prumyslovy Palace, Prague, Argentina, Rencontres at Georges Pompidou Center, Te Papa Museum, and Academy of Fine Arts, New Zealand.
Her works include videos, interactive installations, performances, exhibitions and large scale international performance in theatres and stadiums, working as a concept and design artist and lighting designer in collaborations with musicians, orchestras and choreographers.
Raewyn Turner & Brian Harris 2013