Meet the Berlin-Based Creatives Using Scent to Make Art

Scent Club meet up at Spektrum
Scent Club meet up at Spektrum | © Scent Club
Alice Dundon

The Berlin-based creatives behind Scent Club are challenging art-lovers to flex their olfactory nerves, while they redefine the boundaries of art. Using scent as their foundation, the artist collective explores art, science and technology through an olfactory lens, creating interactive installations where visitors become part of the experience and work. The community of scent enthusiasts includes core members Mareike Bode, Max Joy, Alanna Lynch, Aleksandra Pawlowska, Eeva-Liisa Puhakka and Chaveli Sifre, who each bring their unique background and experience to the collectives monthly exhibitions, tours, workshops and meetups. Meet Scent Club, the collective that will change how you experience smell.

Spektrum Berlin

Can you tell us a little more about what Scent Club is?

Scent Club is an artistic collective, but it is also a community of people that come together to research, do projects and collaborate focusing on the sense of smell. In the past, we have developed a variety of projects such as installations, workshops, olfactory tours and olfactory portraits. Our mission is to offer the opportunity for people to switch focus and tune into their sense of smell, thus enhancing a particular experience or providing one that caters directly to the nose.

How did the core members meet?

We met at Spektrum, a community centre in Neukölln. They issued an open call for the project and a variety of people showed up – with time and according to their particular involvement, some members became core members. However, everyone is welcome to join and become a core member, it is simply a matter of time, commitment and a personal decision.

Exhibition at Hamburger Bahnhof

What is it about scent that you find so interesting?

Smell is an intrinsic, powerful thing, it can be subtle and ambient or powerful and overwhelming, almost like a weapon. Smell is also a highly subjective experience, it is in a way a trip inwards, into one’s own personal history and associations, and therefore it is extremely rich. When we smell something we want to communicate what we remember, it is the fastest trigger of involuntary memory and a way to access things long forgotten in our brain. However, our aesthetic history and contemporaneity tend to favour sight and other senses over smell, we want to change that! We like that smell is not digital.

When did you start putting together events in Berlin?

We started meeting to discuss smells around the time that Spektrum started, in 2015. Since 2017 we have been working under the name Scent Club Berlin.

Mareike talks about an exhibition

Tell us about your meetups – what can people expect at these ‘exhibitions?’

Our meetups are a window into our practice and an invitation to everyone that wishes to participate, to become a member or simply enjoy a night with our community. People can stay up to date on our meetups on Facebook or find us under Spektrum on meetup. We also have monthly workshops – the next one, titled ‘Work the Scent’, takes place on July, 6 and 21, at Martin Gropius Bau/Berliner Festspiele. We also have a final Olfactory Tour through the exhibition Welt Ohne Außen on August, 3. Both will explore scent in unique ways and are a great way to get to know our community.

What kinds of topics do these meetups explore?

They take a variety of formats, from workshops to talks, olfactory walks and discussion or presentations by professionals in the field. For example, we’ve had PhD candidate Dora Goldsmith present her work on the Olfactory Realm of Ancient Egypt, and chemist Tobias Esselborn talk to us about the chemistry of smell. The last one was a very informal Stinky Picnic, where members were asked to bring food that we all enjoyed with both our noses and mouths.

Scent Club takes visitors on a sensory journey

What can people expect at these tours and meetups?

People can expect a very open and welcoming community passionate about the sense of smell, coming together to share what they know, ask questions and do projects together. Our meetups thrive on providing a relaxed atmosphere for our members to feel comfortable and enjoy pushing together the limits of the sense of smell.

You also curate an olfactory walk-through at Spektrum, what does that entail?

Our olfactory tours or olfactory walks are an invitation to expand a particular setting, be it an exhibition, artistic collection, or route, by tuning into our sense of smell to expand our interpretation and enjoyment of a space, object or event. We aim to provide our participants with the opportunity to shift their focus and rediscover their sometimes forgotten sense of smell. It sounds quite simple, but mindfully enjoying the world through your nose really transforms it.

Scent Club olfactory tour

What are some things the collective has discovered through scent?

The most beautiful thing we have discovered has to be the fact that while the sense of smell is extremely subjective, it has the capacity to bring people together, it connects people and opens people up – not only to their memories and associations, but also to one another.

How would you say experience and smells are interconnected?

Through associations, everything we experience affects how we react to a particular smell. In that sense, there are no bad or good smells, just different associations that occur in regards to the experience of such a smell.

A Scent Club meet up group

Would you consider your meetups artistic or something else entirely?

We are an artistic collective; our work is social, immaterial and centred around scent as a medium. Our meetups, olfactory tours, and installations are all part of our artistic proposal.

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