Making Scents: Art & the Olfactory

Explore how scent informs art and innovation at this symposium and day of experimentation

22 Sep 2018
11:00am - 4:00pm
Mortimer House
37-41 Mortimer Street, Fitzrovia
London, W1T 3JP
United Kingdom

In collaboration with Escentric Molecules.

Frieze Academy presents 'Making Scents: Art and the Olfactory', a symposium and day of experimentation that brings together extraordinary pioneers in the fields of art, scent and neuroscience. Discover the myriad and inspiring ways smell can be experienced, why collaborations between olfaction and art are in focus now, and what the future of scent may hold.

Speakers include leading global scent researcher and ‘nasalnaut’, Sissel Tolaas, whose experiments have led to ways we can ‘smell’ the news or make cheese from odour molecules; perfumer, Geza Schoen, whose Molecule 01 is a cultural phenomenon as much as a scent; Paul Schütze, whose practice bridges contemporary art, music and fragrance, including collaborations with James Turrell and Isaac Julien; collaborators Grace Boyle (founder of The Feelies) and Nadjib Achaibou (perfumer and member of the collective Les Flaneurs), whose multi-sensory storytelling incorporates perfumery, perception science, virtual reality and more; and rhinologist and specialist in the neuroscience of smell, Simon Gane. The day is hosted by Susan Irvine, Creative Project Leader for Olfactive Projects in partnership with International Flavors & Fragrances (IFF) at the Royal College of Art.

This is an opportunity to immerse yourself in this experimental and pioneering creative world. Explore where art and scent intersect, and learn about historically significant collaborations between the two fields. The day will cover subjects as diverse as scent-mapping, scent-engineering, the ways our brains respond to scent, as well as aesthetic and philosophical ways that this sense is used. Sample scent sensations, including a gift from Escentric Molecules.

This day will appeal to artists and creatives looking to understand more about the lateral and radical applications of scent in contemporary artistic projects. It will also appeal to those curious about the art historical relationship with scent, and the traditions of aromatic practice in evoking other eras, as well as identifying contemporary artists who use scent in innovative and experimental ways. With speakers from the perfume, science and art industry, the day will offer new interpretations and hands-on experience for beauty industry professionals.



Sissel Tolaas is a Norwegian smell researcher and 'nasalnaut' (she navigates the world by smell). She is considered a pioneering smell researcher and artist, who has been researching and experimenting intensively with the topic of smell since 1990.
 Sissel established the SMELL RE_searchLab Berlin in January 2004.  She has worked with international museums and universities, on projects ranging from Nasalo, a smell-lexicon created in conjunction with the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, to making pollution kits with Harvard University for children to play with and learn from. She has used abstract molecules to fix future memories, and smell-mapped over fifty cities from Nuuq to Tokyo with her portable smell device and has also built a smell archive, a collection of 10,000 smell-molecules and smell-structures. 

Berlin-based perfumer, Geza Schoen has a reputation as a rebel in the fragrance world. Following his pioneering experiments with Iso E Super, an aroma-molecule created in a laboratory at IFF in 1973, he founded the ‘anti-fragrance fragrance brand’ Escentric Molecules in London in 2006. Schoen created two fragrances in homage to this elusive molecule: the first used an unprecedented 65% of the molecule; while the second radically reduced the formula to contain only Iso E Super. He followed this initial pair of fragrances ‘01’ with ‘02’, ‘03’ and in 2017, ‘04’. Throughout his career, Schoen has collaborated on conceptual projects such as Paper Passion, a fragrance with Steidl, Wallpaper*and Karl Lagerfeld, and worked with artists such as Wolfgang Georgsdorf, for whom he made 64 odours for Smeller, an olfactory organ that spectators can play like a piano to make aromascapes. Prior to Escentric Molecules, Schoen worked with designers, Brian Kirkby and Zowie Broach of Boudicca to create their individual scent, Wode.

Nadjib Achaibou is a French, Mexican Algerian perfumer based in London. He creates fragrances for consumer products during the day, and explores artistic perfumery at night, mainly focusing on performances with his collective Les Flaneurs. He has created fragrances for concerts, using scent like an instrument, and curated social experiments. He has collaborated with multi-sensory storytellers, The Feelies to orchestrate new narrative structures for theatre and VR.

Grace Boyle is the founder and director of The Feelies, a London-based studio creating original multi-sensory XR content. Bringing together perfumery, perception science, creative technologists and artistic installation in the world of XR, The Feelies is developing what is it to write, shoot and perform stories in a multisensory medium. Their project Munduruku, a sensory VR made with Greenpeace and AlchemyVR, was created to tell the story of the Munduruku Indigenous People of Brazil, and their struggle to demarcate their ancestral lands. Featuring an olfactory narrative, recorded heat, wind and infrasonics, the experience takes place in giant, egg-shaped pods.  Launching with a month-long solo exhibition in São Paulo, the pods have now welcomed nearly 10,000 people in six countries, and won awards at Future of Storytelling in New York, and Sheffield Doc/Fest and Raindance festivals in the UK.

Paul Schütze has a career that spans art, olfactory and music. He runs the online sensory archive Dressing The Air, and recently launched the fragrance house Paul Schütze Perfume with partner Chris Rickwood. His perfume projects have seen him install three bespoke fragrances in The Sir John Soane Museum. Schutze also works as an artist using photography, video, sound and installation. He has collaborated with artists including James Turrell, Josiah McElheny & Isaac Julien. He is a part of Australian experimental band Laughing Hands and Phantom City.
Simon Gane FRCS (ORL-HNS) is a consultant Rhinologist and ENT Surgeon at the Royal National Throat, Nose and Ear Hospital in London, UK. He is also the honorary ENT surgeon to Moorfields Eye Hospital. He trained in the North Thames Region of London, including stints at the Royal National with Professor Valerie Lund, Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital, St Bartholomew’s, and St Mary's Hospital. His research interests include human olfaction, Chronic Rhinosinusitis and Hereditary Haemorrhagic Telangiectasia. He specialises in nasal sinus surgery, including the frontal sinus, anterior skull base and interfaces with the orbit.
The day will be hosted by Susan Irvine, Creative Project Leader for Olfactive Projects in partnership with IFF, based in the Fashion Programme at the Royal College of Art. She has published two books about perfume and has won the industry's Jasmine Award numerous times. She is also a fragrance consultant.
To find out more about our host venue Mortimer House, please click here

Image: Courtesy Geza Schoen.


Official global partner

LIFEWTR global lead partner


LIFEWTR proudly supports Frieze Academy.
More than water. LIFEWTR is a platform for emerging artists.


11 am

Susan Irvine will introduce the event and the themes, covering the current high profile of olfaction and the rising public interest in making scents.

11.15 am - 12 pm

Geza Schoen (Escentric Molecules) in conversation with Susan Irvine. Schoen will discuss his work in relation to art and chemistry, and bring some abstract, cutting edge molecules for participants to smell. He will demonstrate how he uses the single molecules that make up each Molecule fragrance to dictate the aroma-profile of the Escentric fragrances.

12 - 12.45 pm

Simon Gane will explain the neuroscience of how we smell, a puzzle that has only recently been fully solved by science. He will look at recurring and unique themes of synaesthesia and olfactory mapping.

12.45 - 1.45 pm

Lunch break

1.45 - 2.30 pm

Sissel Tolaas presents ‘Smell as Information, Purpose: Communication’. The 'nasalnaut' and 'professional inbetweener' will discuss her pioneering experiments and will bring an unexpected smell or two from her archive for participants to experience.

2.30 - 3.30 pm

Nadjib Achaibou and Grace Boyle will be talking specifically about how smells can work with VR experience referencing projects they’ve worked on together in the Amazon.

3.30 - 4.15 pm

Paul Schütze will speak about the way olfaction has become a critical part of his artistic practice, and the methodology between visual, sonic and olfactory creation.

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