What Does Art Smell Like?


What does the color red smell like? How does it taste?

Imagine you’re in an art gallery, studying a portrait with a red background. Does your interpretation of it change if you taste ketchup while you look? Or smell blood? Or both? Tate Sensorium, an upcoming exhibition at the London museum virtual trip to a barber .)

“Binaural sound is very immersive,” says Pursey. “It really brings you into the artwork. Take a landscape: There’s a lot of space there. Take a Bridget Riley: They’re often flat. Binaural sound is a perfect way to explore that spatial dimension. It can also help us direct attention to different parts of the artwork, to make things feel very close or far away.”

“We have a sense that museums are a neutral space,” says Partridge, “but they already have sounds and smells. You’re already having your perception changed by your senses. We’re just changing it in a different way.”

The IK Prize 2015 winners, Flying Object (Tate Photography)

For visitors to be literally touched by the art, the brand new technology of “ultrahaptics” uses 256 small ultrasound speakers arrayed in a flat, laptop-sized square to project localized soundwaves through the air.

Holding your hands above them, the waves create the sensation of touch as they crash into visitors' skin. “A feeling of, for example, dry rain,” says Pursey. “Or a circle, or, as you move your hands down, the feeling of pushing them through a bubble.”

Noses are comparatively simple to cater for—treated paper or aerosols are the most likely vehicles for olfactory adventure—but may yet prove key to the project. Smells have strong, specific and emotional memory connotations. “To me,” says Pursey, “the smell of a car air freshener means taxis, but to other people it might mean holidays when they were a child.”

One of the main things Flying Object hope to give people is an awareness of the subjectivity of their interpretations. “We can take an artwork and try to bring to life what’s actually depicted,” says Partridge, “or we can acknowledge that artworks mean different things to different people, and use the other four senses to help people understand that there isn’t one universal interpretation they’re supposed to discover.”

“There could even be different sense experiences for the same work,” adds Pursey.

Part-exhibition, part-experiment, Tate Sensorium will nudge visitors in some new directions, therefore, but it won’t tell them what to think. As with so much great art, the experience is intended to be unique for everyone.

This article was originally published at http://qz.com/365223/soon-youll-be-able-to-taste-the-paintings-at-the-tate/

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