|March 26, 2010|
Why is it that designers rarely utilize the sense of scent in their work? Is there something about it that makes it difficult to work with? Hard to control? Deeply unknowable? Is scent beyond representation and representational thinking? Does it defy our ability to work meaningfully with it?
These are some of the questions that are driving a symposium that will be held at Parsons The New School for Design on March 26, 2010. HeadSpace: On Scent as Design is a collaboration between the Transdisciplinary Design graduate program in the School of Design Strategies at Parsons, MoMA, International Flavors and Fragrances (IFF) and the science and culture magazine SEED. It is a follow up to our collaborative event held two years ago entitled Mind08. This year’s event will feature designers, scientists, artists, theorists, and fragrance industry professionals in a all-day, wildly eclectic program. The formulation and articulation of the project has been a collaboration along with Laetitia Wolff from Parsons, Paola Antonelli from MoMA, Veronique Ferval from IFF, Eva Wisten from SEED and the film-maker Jane Nisselson of Virtual Beauty. The overall project includes not only the symposium but a class I am currently teaching entitled Critical Experiments in the Smell of Space and Time in the undergraduate Integrated Design Program at Parsons. We’ll be developing an unexpected scent “experience” for the day of the symposium.
Below you will find an outline of the program, which is not yet fully confirmed, but close:
HEADSPACE: On Scent as Design
Parsons the New School for Design
and the Museum of Modern Art
In partnership with International Fragrances and Flavors (IFF)
present the HEADSPACE symposium
on Friday March 26, 2010
with [media sponsor] SEED magazine
HEADSPACE is a one-day symposium on the conception, impact, and potential applications of scent. This event gathers for the first time leading thinkers, designers, scientists, artists, established perfumers as well as “accidental ones” (a selection of architects, designers, and chefs invited to experiment with scent) to challenge our understanding of this untapped medium, transcending boundaries and exploring new territory for design.
We understand our world through our senses. Our sense of smell, however, is both rarely utilized and hardly engaged by designers. Scent is an untapped medium that presents a remarkable opportunity for design, given that it is in part through scent that we more fully perceive space, fashion our identities, encode our memories, alert ourselves to danger, enliven our appetites, stimulate curiosity, and navigate our lived and natural environments.
Scent is also a form of design in and of itself. It emerges as an exciting realm for design exploration precisely at a time when a dematerialized and ephemeral technology seems to be leading us further away from direct sensory experiences. Modernist architecture and design attempted to banish all odors through new finishes, air control systems, and antiseptic surfaces, and our digital future seems to hold no place for the vicissitudes of aromas, fragrances, and stink. However, exciting new science is exploring the ways in which scent stimulates cognition, memory, and the production of experience.
The Headspace symposium is not merely a platform to trigger creative exchange amongst experts and explorers, it is also an innovative, immersive and experiential event. Its multiple facets include:
• Panels: four moderated panels of presentations by diverse experts from different disciplines.
• Accidental Perfumers: 5 high profile international guest designers commissioned to rethink our relationship to scent and to re-imagine our experience of scent in collaboration with professional perfumers.
• Film: an introductory documentary film that explains how scent works physiologically and that profiles both specialist and non-specialist designers designing applications with scent.
• Experience: a scent experience designed for the event by scent designers from IFF in collaboration with Parsons students.
Panel program outline:
Panel #1 Designing Scents
What is “knowledge” in terms of scent? How do we learn and probe the world through scent? Is there a language of scent? How do we develop concepts and building blocks for scent as a design capacity?
> Carlos Benaïm: perfumer
> Ayse Birsel: product designer
Moderator: Laetitia Wolff (Parsons)
Panel #2 Space, Time and Scent
How is scent tied to our perceptions of space and time? How are designers using scent to reshape our perception and experience of space, time, interiors, and products? How are designers using scent to brand experiences?
> Toshiko Mori: architect
> Anna Barbara: designer and architectural theorist
> Sissel Tolaas: conceptual scent artist
Moderator: Paola Antonelli (MoMA)
Panel #3 Scent, Sensors and the Expanded Realm of Sensation
What can scent tell us that we do not already perceive or understand? How will electronic sensors reshape our olfactic world? What can we detect through scent but not fully comprehend? How might ubiquitous scent sensors reconfigure the everyday?
> Leslie Vosshall: researcher on how higher olfactory centers process different odor stimuli to yield a conscious percept of a particular smell
> Susana Soares: designer of biological sensing bee technologies
> Dr. William Hanson: medical writer and developer of electronic aroma sensor
Moderator: Adam Bly (SEED)
Panel #4 Anosmia and Modernity
How have we created the absence of scent in our everyday lives? What does it mean to have no scent? What are we not sensing when we cannot smell anything?
> Sylvia Lavin: architecture and design critic
> Jean-Louis Fréchin: designer exploring digital hyper-sensoriality
Moderator: Jamer Hunt (Parsons)
A select group of designers will partner with perfumers from IFF to create a series of unique applications for scent in our everyday lives, beyond fragrance. A film will document the designer/perfumer collaborations. In between panels, the presentation of their outcome as well as their process will be moderated by New York Times fragrance critic, Chandler Burr.
Ayse Birsel + Bibi Seck (NYC) – www.birselplusseck
Zöe Coombes and David Boira (NYC) – www.commonwealth.nu
Toshiko Mori (NYC) – www.tmarch.com
Majora Carter (NYC) – www.majoracartergroup.com
Proef (Holland) – www.proefamsterdam.nl
The event will be free and open to the public. However, guests must register in advance to guarantee seating at <www.headspace2010.com>.