Kate McLean

[or how about a higher-res]

Western understanding and knowledge of the world is occularcentric, yet smell is the first of our senses to develop. I’m interested in what happens when we foreground the olfactory over the visual as our primary means of encountering the world, as well as the component elements of urban smellscape-perception and how we can share olfactory information.

I find smell captivating for a variety of reasons; one of which is its capacity to render the known urban environment unknown (a communication method described by Kenya Hara as 'exformation')—when we smell a place it is as if we never knew it before, eliciting a sense of discovery. Also smell's elusive and ephemeral qualities enable the discipline of cartography to open up to the fleeting and transitory as a mappable phenomena. In a digital era the map is mutable—my artistic approach to mapping smellscapes starts to explore some of the boundaries of evanescent cartographic practices as installations, maps and digital experiences. My fascination started by (happy) accident as I deconstructed the city of Edinburgh into a series of separate sensory maps in 2011. I was encouraged by the great urban smellscape theorist Victoria Henshaw with whom I worked on a number of projects before her premature death in 2014. I owe a great debt to her situated, human-centred approach to smell. We are human, smells makes a difference to how we feel about specific places, yet we lack vocabularies to express this. Now is a good time to reconsider smell.