world preimer: V2_ Institute for Unstable Media

15.03.2012, event name: Smell This!


V2's page on the event Smell This!


OLFACTO (= olfactory) SCAPE (= scenery)

OLFACTOSCAPE is an invisible panorama painting. It's a 3m diameter space created with a curtain. The walls are "painted" with smells.

Perfume is a composition of multiple ingredients, often more than a hundred. Making a perfume is like making a piece of music: creating a harmony with multiple tones. In this version of the OLFACTOSCAPE, independent components (aromatic ingredients) of Chanel No. 5 are separately placed (sprayed) at the different locations. If you stand in the middle point of the space, you would smell the "harmony." If you walk along the curtain, you would smell the "individual tones." The intention is thus, to deconstruct the Chanel No. 5, and to reconstruct it again.

Enter the space, close your eyes, walk and sniff like a dog. Some scents come closer to you, while others fade away. When do you smell the "harmony" and when do you smell the "individual tones?" Do the scents navigate you instead of you navigating yourself? Is there any scent that attracts you, or that makes you want to approach?

This project is supported by Omega Ingredients and







A multi-sensorial perception of space - ‘Olfactoscape’ by Maki Ueda

A review by Caro Verbeek, an art historian

(cited from


‘Because we have two nostrils and because we can move, we are able to perceive smells in stereo and navigate through a space by inhaling’

Eyes closed, hands on the circularly arranged cloth hanging from the ceiling, concentrated on the olfactory clues sprayed on the textile in front of me, I slowly make my way through Maki Ueda’s ‘Olfactoscape’. ‘Chanel no. 5 deconstructed’ it said in the announcement. Suddenly an obtrusive smells hits me like a brick wall. I knew this was coming, but still it’s incredibly overwhelming; pure animalistic and deeply penetrating musk! Without hesitating I take one step back. It’s still there. Recovering from the first shock I am turning slightly to the left as it disappears. Nothing now. I move closer to the smooth flexible wall counter-clockwise. This brings me back to the more pleasant less pungent aroma I perceived one minute earlier. This one is less volatile, has less volume so to speak. By shifting my weight from one foot to another I try to find the exact border between the two. And there it is! Sharp like a knife. Apparently movement facilitates a spatial perception of odour to such a level that it becomes a floating and clearly defined shape.


‘Because we have two nostrils and because we can move, we are able to perceive smells in stereo and navigate through a space by inhaling’, Maki Ueda tells the audience before inviting them to visit ‘Olfactoscape’ during the V2 ‘Smell this’ event on the 15th of March. ‘Remember to keep your eyes closed and to move slowly’, she adds with a serious expression on her face. ‘Olfacto’ referring to the sense of smell and ‘scape’ to a landscape, this circular installation containing the most important components of the famous Chanel no. 5, enables visitors to experience space by one of our most underrated senses. ‘Why did you choose this type of construction’ one curious bystander remarks. Ueda: ‘When you stand in the middle, you perceive the harmony, that’s why this installation is organized as a circle, although a labybrinth or a rectangular narrow space would have been interesting as well’.


‘This was the first modern perfume’, she continues. ‘All perfumers educated now have to be able to reproduce it’. Chanel no. 5 is a so-called signature perfume. Its origins are surrounded by myths. One of the stories is that of a perfume mixer that somehow overdosed on aldehydes and ‘boom’: the birth of the first modern perfume, which - supposedly by mistake - has an extremely characteristic aroma. When isolated, these aldehydes are somewhat unpleasant and ‘fatty’ as Maki describes them.


Most of us are familiar with the fact that odours that are perceived as foul or hideous when secluded, turn out to pleasant and (wildly) attractive when covered with floral or fruity top notes. Musk and indole (to be found in human feces and associated with prostitutes at that time) are suddenly acceptable by upper class women when combined with vanilla or citrus. Chanel no. 5 is one of these layered almost schizophrenic perfumes. By deconstructing and grouping the most important ingredients, the artist presents to us a three-dimensional version of the most famous perfumes of all times. She allows us to smell the less agreeable odorants separately, exposing the bare naked femme fatale (base notes) underneath the civilized dressed up lady at the surface (top and middle notes). This makes it a bit like watching a scary movie. You know something is about to happen, but you can’t predict when. But your body knows before your mind.


Beside this more conceptual layer, there is a poetic and purely sensual aspect to the work which one can exclusively become aware of while experiencing this aromatic landscape. It forces you to combine several of your senses as if they were one: touch, smell and proprioception or kinaesthesia. A kinaesthetic experience is usually conceived by sight and even sound in combination with movement. This less well known sense tells us what our position is in a defined space. The unique circumstances provided by Olfactoscape, hand us the possibility to navigate through space with our hands, nose and body. The knowledge of the presence of certain ingredients, such as indole, aldehydes and musk, offers an extra dimension. Once you perceive them, being aware of the fact that your body almost described 360 degrees by this point, they function as a grand finale.


After exchanging the darkness and consolation of the installation for ‘neutral’ air and sharp electric light I am in a complete different state of mind. The mindful and multi-sensorial journey through Chanel no. 5 definitely left its mark on me.

- two parallel olfactory environments inspired by the history of Japan and Holland -

installation, commissioned work (2009)


This work, consisting of two parallel olfactory environments, takes you on a sensory journey to 17th-century Japan when the Dutch were stationed on the artificial island Deshima off the Japanese coast.  The scents are not trying to tell you the truth - they take you to the world of imagination and fascination.


This is a room with the Japanese smells that the head of the VOC was presumeably smelling in Japan about 400 years ago.

[PLEASE TOUCH!] You are invited to sniff around and survey the room. Step into the role of the geisha or that of the visiting VOC chief. Lie down on the tatami mats, powder your face and sample the odours of old Japan, smells that were so exotic to the first Dutch visitors.


This is a room with the Dutch smells: coffee, cigarette, and meat.  They were introduced to Japan by the Dutch.

More documentations regarding its development:

period: 16.05.2009 - 30.08.2009

place: De Lakenhal Stedelijk Museum Leiden

on occasion of: Holland Mania Manifestation


Smell is the medium used by artist Maki Ueda. She takes you on a sensory journey to 17th-century Japan when the Dutch were stationed on the artificial island Deshima off the Japanese coast. The Japanese history of smell cannot be told without including the role of the Dutch: the Dutch East India Company (VOC) brought cloves, nutmeg, other spices and essential oils to Japan. The Dutch also introduced new distilling techniques to the Japanese in the 17th century.


The Head of the VOC Visiting a Geisha

This is a room with the Japanese smells that the head of the VOC was presumeably smelling in Japan about 400 years ago.

[A] Geisha cosmetics available for the public to wear




Ueda has developed 8 fragrant cosmetics that geisha's were presumeably wearing.

>>> view the geisha cosmetics

[B] Live performances in the room installation

In some weekends 'a real geisha' lives in this room with wearing the smells. (cosplay / costume-play)





[C] Head-mounted olfactory display

This is a smell interface that Ueda has developed. In the box you can smell those scents that the head of the VOC was smelling in Japan. (Self-made extracts are being used.)




smell 1: camphor

The smell of these trees can be found everywhere in Japan, especially around the Shinto shrines. It cools you down in the terribly hot and humid summer. The aromatic crystals that Japanese people obtain from this bark have the same smell as to Borneol but are much cheaper. Therefore we, the VOC, have marketed this product as an alternative to Borneol, with great success. We trade this product for spices like clove and cinnamon.

- The head of the VOC commenting on the smell of camphor -

smell 2: agarwood

This smell surrounds the geisha house and invites me to enter it. They appear to burn this wood permanently as incense. It permeates the entire red light district. It makes me feel relaxed and excited at the same time.

- The head of the VOC commenting on the smell of agarwood -

smell 3: teeth enamel water

Geisha's paint their teeth black with this liquid every morning as a ritual. Since this liquid emits a pungent smell, my geisha finishes her ritual before I wake up, so that I won't smell it. I asked her what the liquid is made from, and she answered, tea leaves, fermented rice, syrup, rusted metal, and insect-induced tree excretion. When she bares her black teeth in a smile, they protrude so much that they make me think of a vampyre.

- The head of the VOC commenting on the smell of teeth enamel water -

Geisha's were using aphrodisiac scents as a tool for their business.  Here are some cosmetics developed by Maki Ueda, to fill your imagination.  They are developed manually by the artist based partly on the historical documents and partly on her imaginations.





“Geisha's love the tonic water 'DEW OF FLOWER', a distilled water made from wild rose.  The top class geisha's first started to wear it around 1640, and then later it became popular also among the middle and lower classes.  Those who cannot afford it make it at home following the fashion book Miyako-Fuzoku-Kewaiden (1813) that illustrates how to distill with kettle and tea cup. “

- the head of VOC -



(1) As a tonic water: spraying after washing your face will make your skin moisturised.

(2) For the finishing touch: spraying after puffing OSHIROI POWDER will make your face even more shiny.


wild rose water, clove, sandalwood, borneol



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