The Artist Who Maps the World, Through Smell

The Artist Who Maps the World, Through Smell


– [Kate] It’s got quite a strong smell. Ooooh! – Metal! – [Kate] It is hot metal, isn’t it? – Like a wet dog smell. – [Kate] Yes, wet dog smell. I had coconut just there. And then, I’ve just got a whiff of bacon. My name is Kate McLean,
and I’m a designer and mapper of the “smellscapes”
in cities around the world. What we’re going to do today is we’re going to do a smell
walk around Canterbury. A smell walk is a way of collecting data that can then be mapped to
describe a city’s smellscape. I started with Edinburgh because that’s where I was based when I first started doing the research. I didn’t know whether Edinburgh would smell the same as every other city. But the smells were completely different. So what’s really important
to the whole mapping process is actually noting down
where these smells happen. ‘Cause after you’ve written them all down, I translate all of this into
something that’s visual. The important part of my work is that it’s not me that
goes in to smell places. My job is to actually to collect that data and then to translate
it into a visual format. So I always recruit people from the cities where the smell map is of, primarily because they are
the ones who know their city. In a city smellscape, you’ve got base notes,
which are the long-lasting smells of a city. The middle notes in a city tend to be the episodic smells, so they might happen in the morning, they might happen in the evening, they might happen as
a result of particular café or restaurant at
a certain time of day. I think it’s like tomato paste and yeast. And it’s the same at every single Subway all the way around the world. And then you’ve got what I
term the “curiosity smells,” which just sit at the top of this pyramid. Which are the really interesting ones. Anything interesting? – Slightly turkey, but you’ve
got the stale dog bones. – [Kate] Oooh! Yeah! It’s like… – It’s not quite teenager
bedroom, but it’s… – [Kate] It’s bloody close. So, when you focus and hone your attention on smelling, then it’s very
different to just walking down the street and not
paying attention to it. There’s also a lovely level of people willing to stick their noses into things that they didn’t think
they would be able to. And my favorite is always the trash can. Is that a pipe? – Yep. – [Kate] My mission with
it is to encourage people to be curious about the
places that they live in and that they explore. And to do that in a multisensory way without needing or requiring any sort of specialist knowledge to do so. So, we can all smell things. We’re much better at
doing it than we think. And it’s a very curious way of understanding the city. It becomes sort of like a recording of an olfactory heritage
of different sites around the world. In years to come, we can
actually look back on them and say, “That’s what
that city smelled like at that particular period of time.”

11 thoughts on “The Artist Who Maps the World, Through Smell”

  1. actually the norwegian artist Sissel Tolaas, now Professor at Berlin University of Arts, has done exactly the same some 15 years ago, if niot longer

  2. Clearly nowadays everyone immersed on their smartphones lost all kind of senses , interesting to see some people still got it

  3. Like music that brings us back to a particular place in our histories, smell can have the same powerful results. This was a very interesting video. Thanks y'all!

  4. I went to Manhattan after a year's absence. Immediately I noticed the scent of grilling meats emanating from the halal food trucks and I felt like I was home.

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