Urban smell enthusiasts
Imagine the scene: a bunch of smell experts enthusiastically sniffing their way around Barcelona’s public streets and squares and including the famous tourist destination of La Rambla, La Boqueria Market occupied by equal amounts of local people and visitors, and the multi-cultural contested area of El Raval (reported in detail in Monica Montserrat Degen’s book Sensing Cities).
Last month, I was lucky enough to be invited by Philosopher Dr Marta Tafalla (@TafallaMarta) to participate in a two-day workshop bringing together a range of smell and wider sensory specialists from across the world. The event was supported by GRECC (Research Group in Epistemology and Cognitive Sciences) focussed upon different aspects of smell, anosmia and aesthetics, something that Marta has written on herself, drawing from her own experiences of life with congenital anosmia. The programme was packed with fascinating presentations on different aspects of smell with topics ranging from curating olfactory art, delivered by Professor Jim Drobnick, editor of The Smell Culture Reader (an absolute essential for all smell aficionados) and joint-editor of the Journal of Curatorial Studies, through to another on the science behind smell and taste delivered by Laura López-Mascaraque (@LopezMascaraque), Head of the Spanish Olfactory Network and based at the Cajal Institute-CSIC in Madrid. Further details of all of the presentations included in the Workshop can be viewed here, I’d definitely recommend checking out the work of the range of presenters.
On the second day of the Workshop, I led the Barcelona smellwalk around the city, and we were joined by the Spanish media who created a short film on the walk, available here in both Spanish and English. The range and perception of smells detected by participants was vast including such smells as a rose garden, construction (including metal soldering), concrete, sewers, warm bodies and, you guessed it, tourists!
For those of you interested in undertaking the smellwalk yourself, download a free PDF of the route here, and feel free to upload details of the smells you detect to our new world smellmap (more details of this to follow in the weeks to come).