Making scents of the media

Goldsmiths' New Academic Building

The event was held at Goldsmiths University's new building which was designed to look like pixels

Former Human League and Heaven 17 musician Martyn Ware asked the audience at last week’s Media and the Senses event, to sniff a number of synthetic smells created in collaboration with German scent artist Sissel Tolaas. They were then invited to describe them, and match them to sounds created by Ware.

Deciding on the sound of a smell is more easily said than done. People tended to have very different ideas about what went with what, but it certainly got people thinking and talking about how they view the world around them.

In 2008, Sissel Tolaas collaborated with photographer Nick Knight to produce a perfume based on the idea of violence.

This project drew some inspiration from Knight’s famous photographs of East End skinheads in the 1980s which were taken in Petticoat Lane in Tower Hamlets.

The digital design for Dr. Julian Henriques's Circle of Sound Sculpture

For Knight, simply looking at these images brings back the smell of brick, washed jeans, boot polish and Indian cooking.

He believes a photograph, something we look at, can be brought to life in a new way though simply thinking about it in terms of another sense.

This is the sort of idea that Media and the Senses sought to explore. The event was organised to celebrate the college’s New Academic Building and it looked at how we think about smell, taste, hearing, touch and sight, and how our understanding of them is changing.

There were talks from historians, psychologists, anthropologists, musicians and visual artists.

A series of installations were displayed alongside the talks which included many contributions from Goldsmiths students and staff.

Sound art installations sometimes played out through eight different speakers in surround sound immersed visitors to the building.

The New Academic Building at Goldsmiths, which has been open all year, was designed by architects Stride Treglown to reflect its focus for teaching media arts and the the green aspirations of the college.

The terracotta cladding on the exterior is supposed to bring to mind ‘pixels’, and the building includes features such as ‘wind towers’ on the roof which help the ventilation.

The Media in the Senses conference was a more peaceful event than the Building’s official opening in February, which was marked by students protesting at the choice of speaker and the decision to make the event invite only.

An exhibition accompanying Media and the Senses is running until the end of the week and is free and open to all on the ground and lower ground floor, New Academic Building, Goldsmiths College, New Cross , London, SE14 6NW, 8am to 9pm. More details on the artworks can be found here.

Martyn Ware explains molecular sound:

Conference organiser on the Media and the Senses conference

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