Having been thrown in at the deep end of this residency I am working on figuring out “my line of inquiry” which is embryonic at the moment. So I have decided to put aside making any decision for now and, instead, I will relay to you, my audience, the fantastic and confusing first act as an artist-in-residence at Fabrica gallery which was to attend an unusual and very interesting workshop organised by artist and curator Magda Tyżlik-Carver called Sensing Place.
Sensing Place is part of a bigger project called Ecologies of Intimacy, a hybrid research and practice-based investigation into the ways in which digital and networked technologies influence the way we experience intimacy, and our ability to create relations with animated and inanimate objects that are intimate.
This workshop promised to focus on senses and sensations, experiencing memories, emotions, ideas and speculations, to sense place and data by engaging in practical explorations of sensory stimulants in/with natural and artificially generated environments and materials. During this workshop two projects were presented where the focus was on sensing environment as place, and the body as a sensor that connects us with it.
Archaeologist, anthropologist and geospatial specialist Judith van der Elst blew my mind with her projects, The Periodic Table, Rural Renaissance/Montefeltro – the title is taken from a Primo Levi book and Odorama. In collaboration with Prof. Farina from the University of Urbino (Italy), artists and technologists, and using biosemiotics – the study of the myriad of communication between and among living systems – this group of collaborators work to create robots that are attuned to nature, enabling recognition and navigation through sensory environments. Van der Elst and her collaborators are also working toward the development of a novel mapping system which takes into account the sensory richness of the land, specifically including and highlighting the materiality of information and experiences that many of us consider to be ephemeral, intangible, transient…sounds, smells and other sense-able signals in the Earth’s sphere developing digital tools and mobile technologies (www.machinewilderness.net). She also has decided to volunteer working the land in local farms where she lives in Italy.
Developed over years by artist Raewyn Turner, Byte in the Land is a multimodal art project that exists as an artwork, a wine tasting performance, and a workshop. The process of mapping emotional words to fragrances and flavours brings together reflection with olfactory ciphers in order to create an art experience that may be felt in the body.
I’m not sure I was able to harness the whole experience and definitely got a bit tipsy and distracted before anything could be “felt in the body”. Nevertheless the workshop was very interesting and we learned to add scent to wine by using plants from the surrounding area, essential oils and synthetic food flavourings which we all agreed smelt vile. We all worked hard at mixing and matching different scents to try to create a smell that would match our emotional word or place. And we ended by sharing the smelly cup.
On the day we explored the fragrance of contemporary existence with a sound to smell apparatus called Accidental Piano developed in collaboration with Brian Harris. Using synthetic and natural smells harvested in Brighton area we mapped the smells onto our emotions, stories and memories and used Accidental Piano to expand the olfactory map into aural sensations.