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Memory

Highlighting the vanishing breeds enchantment

I am happy to announce The Ephemeral Marvels Perfume Store (T.E.M.P.S., French for time), a hypothetical perfume line set in the future when many things in nature would have disappeared as we know it because of climate change. This is the first collection of eight scents.

The Ephemeral Marvels Perfume Store is a collaboration of The Apocalypse Project and Givaudan. It is part of The Apocalypse Project: Imagined Futures at The Mind Museum and is part of the museum’s permanent collection. Go and visit The Mind Museum to smell these perfumes.

The Ephemeral Marvels Perfume Store from Catherine Young on Vimeo.

Coasts
Climate change leads to rising sea levels, threatening to swallow up the world’s coastlines.

Coasts by The Ephemeral Marvels Perfume Store

Coasts by The Ephemeral Marvels Perfume Store

Coffee
Coffee bean production is dependent on cool mountainsides that are running out because of rising temperatures. Pests are also flourishing because of the warmer weather.

Coffee by The Ephemeral Marvels Perfume Store

Coffee by The Ephemeral Marvels Perfume Store

Honey
Climate change can make flowers open too early before bees emerge from hibernation, causing their numbers to decline.

Honey by The Ephemeral Marvels Perfume Store

Honey by The Ephemeral Marvels Perfume Store

Wine
Climate change is altering growth conditions for grapes, leading to changes in quality of production in wine-producing regions.

Wine by The Ephemeral Marvels Perfume Store

Wine by The Ephemeral Marvels Perfume Store

Eucalyptus
Eucalyptus species are increasingly affected by drought and flash floods. Their long regeneration times and short dispersal of their seeds mean they may not be able to keep up with the pace of climate change.

Eucalyptus by The Ephemeral Marvels Perfume Store

Eucalyptus by The Ephemeral Marvels Perfume Store

Peanuts
The scorching heat drastically reduces the quality of peanut production, leaving more peanuts to be processed into oil rather than the edible quality.

Peanuts by The Ephemeral Marvels Perfume Store

Peanuts by The Ephemeral Marvels Perfume Store

Ice
Higher temperatures are causing the earth’s glaciers and permafrost to melt.

Ice by The Ephemeral Marvels Perfume Store

Ice by The Ephemeral Marvels Perfume Store

Hardwood trees
Different species of trees, such as cedar, pine, and fir, are being decimated as climate change increases the risk of forest fires.

Hardwood trees by The Ephemeral Marvels Perfume Store

Hardwood trees by The Ephemeral Marvels Perfume Store

To bring the project to life, I reached out to Givaudan, a Swiss flavors and fragrance company, who sources materials that preserve the environment, stimulate the development and well-being of communities, and safeguards an efficient use of previous resources. I am grateful to Marilyn Yao, Givaudan Singapore, and Givaudan Philippines for their help in the perfumes, Maribel Garcia who curated The Apocalypse Project: Imagined Futures exhibition, Stephanie Faith Bautista who designed the logo, and Nino Carandang and Peter Lorenz Frac of Shuttermaster Pro for help with photography and video.

The project was a collaboration between the perfumer who mixed the scents in the lab and myself who created the world the perfumes inhabited. Claude Charmoille, VP of Perfumery in Asia, took on this challenge. Charmoille was born in the south of France where scents abound and vary according to seasons. “After completing my botanic and chemistry education, the subtle alchemy between arts – craft – andscience attracted me to the perfumer’s profession,” says Charmoille.

Personally, my favorite scent is Coasts, because it smells of a place as opposed to the others that smell of a specific objects. Because I smell the beach, I remember my childhood memories in the beaches of the Philippines—white sand, coconut trees, the ocean breeze, salty seashells and all. For Charmoille, it’s Eucalyptus. “This one is my favourite, it brings back memories from my childhood when we visited small islands in the Mediterranean sea close to Cannes. In the hot summer days, the eucalypus and pine trees would perfume the air to a degree one can not forget, this warm aromatic and fruity whiff will always remain deeply linked to seaside vacation and family memories.”

As a designer, my intention was to show people a different side of the climate change scenario. Smell is very sensuous and visceral; its effects are instantaneous. Instead of showing statistics of what will disappear because of climate change, I decided to let people smell them. Highlighting the temporary breeds enchantment. As smell is linked to memory, I’m hoping that people will think about how their lives will be without these seemingly ordinary objects that we take for granted that might not be there anymore.

TEMPSgroup

The Ephemeral Marvels Perfume Store

Concept and Design
Catherine Sarah Young

Perfumes
Claude Charmoille of Givaudan

Exhibition
The Mind Museum
Curator
Maria Isabel Garcia

With thanks to
Givaudan Singapore Pte Ltd c/o Claude Charmoille for providing the fragrances
Marilyn Yao and Neri Mamburam

Graphic Design
Stephanie Faith Bautista
Photography
Nino Carandang
Video and Editing
Peter Lorenz Frac of Shuttermaster Pro

Shot at Shuttermaster Pro

This art/science residency is winding down, and my penchant for sentimentality is going up. At the risk of sounding like a Buzzfeed listicle, here are some of the smaller, yet unforgettable moments. Most of these images were taken using a crappy smartphone, but hey, I’ll take it. I’d like to remember Singapore, the fifth country I’ve lived in, with this hodgepodge of memories:

1. The constant mixture of cultures as well as the combination of the traditional and modern.

This guy in Balinese dress was on his smartphone during an intermission. This was a student performance at NUS.

20131120_203343This cosplayer on a photo shoot and the class happening a few feet away. (I’m unsure what the latter is, and I didn’t want to interrupt them. If you think you know what this is, let me know in the comments. I’d like to be enlightened.) This was at Singapore’s Japanese Garden.

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One of my favorite works in the Asian Civilisations Museum: “Mustafa” is written in sini script using a Chinese brush, by a Muslim Chinese calligrapher.

4 A DSC09250

2. Random people working out.

This guy doing a handstand near the Singapore Art Museum. 

20130925_143032Or these skateboarders at Esplanade Station. They remind me of those outside the MACBA in Barcelona.

DSC09508

3. Seeing Venus.

Ok, I’ve definitely seen this before. Let me clarify: seeing Venus and knowing it’s Venus. Thanks to the Meetup group that organized this at the Singapore Science Centre.

20131025_2002574. Random things that grew in my apartment.

This seedling peeked out of my kitchen sink.

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A second mushroom  sprouted in my shower.

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5. Professor Greg Clancey’s cat, Misty, who lives next door to me at Tembusu College.

She went from being scared of me to not caring when I walked past.

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6. Being at my desk at the Future Cities Lab and seeing the people walking up and down the stairs.

The lab occupies the sixth and seventh floors. I think that how they use the stairs reflects their personalities.

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(On that note, seeing this guy repeatedly use the hand rail as a ballet bar is the reason why I stopped touching it.)

7. Attending lectures for the sheer enjoyment of them. 

Such as this one by Pico Iyer sponsored by Yale-NUS at UTown.

Pico Iyer

Or this one by Jonathan Ledgard at the Future Cities Laboratory, whose book, Giraffe, I read and loved last year.

Jonathan Ledgard

8. Working with scientists. 

I loved seeing their less academic side. Like so:

The Apocalypse Project smell mask

9. Getting into emoji chats with my taekwondo master in Korea (since we still can’t understand each other). 

I love my current project the most, but I definitely adjusted faster in Seoul.

Screenshot_2013-09-27-21-20-51

Hurray for Kakao Story! Thanks to interaction design, communication between two people who do not speak the other’s language is completely possible. Guess who did pass her second degree black belt test after all. Now to figure out how to ship it to me. Hmm.

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10. Holding Apocalypse Workshops and getting into uncontrollable fits of laughter.

Because, well…

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This gig went by too fast, too soon. I’m in the goodbye-presents-and-thank-you-notes stage. Wasn’t I just doing this a few months ago? Vagabond problems, oh dear.

I finally had some time to gather together the images from the workshop I did several weeks back. It’s nice to see them properly categorized and truly see the different perceptions of one cloud. Here is an example:

original cloud

original cloud

I saw a dragon!

I saw a dragon!

Here are the other things these art students saw in this cloud:
DSC02069 DSC02070 DSC02073 DSC02108 DSC02113 DSC02130

Head over to the Rorsketch website to see more of them, or follow the project’s Facebook and Twitter accounts. This project just won’t die. Woo!

hotteok, South Korea

hotteok, South Korea

Annyeong, everyone! I’m starting another project.

During my first three weeks in Seoul, beyond the palaces, the museums, and other beautiful attractions the city has to offer, I learned to fall in love with their street food. I have started some drawing projects over the years, and so I came up with The Movable Feast: A Street Food Project, an interpretative illustration project that celebrates the joys and oddities of street food around the world.

Inclusive cuisine

Street food is arguably the most socially inclusive, yet sometimes unnoticed or taken for granted, of all cuisines. There is neither dress code nor reservation required. Everyone has to wait their turn. Street food is among the best things to eat when one is rushing to work, taking a break in between classes, or being too lazy to cook. It is cheap, easily available, and delicious.

The menu of street food can be simple (such as coconut juice and watermelon slices) or more complex and hard-to-find (such as escargot on the go, lobster sandwiches, and grilled tamales) This system includes a range of members—from the ambling taho vendor (Philippines), the seasonal bocadillo stall (Spain), to scheduled and franchised food trucks (United States). It is a mobile and complex system that consists of the producers of raw materials, the makers of the actual dishes, the transportation and infrastructure that bring them to the venues in which they are served, the governing bodies that allow their selling, and the vendors and consumers themselves.

Globalization and diaspora

In many ways, I have discovered that street food is a symbol of globalization and diaspora. Many of them hail from other countries, but with local flavor. Consider goroke, the Korean version of the French croquette. Or hotdogs in Iceland. Or shawarma in Canada. It is also a symbol of urbanization—as the population who move from rural to urban areas increase, so does the need for alternative sources and ways of distributing food.

Street food as identity

I believe that street food is a vital part of the culture and identity of a city. It is indicative of the sustenance immediately afforded by its geography. But more than that, it is a symbol of a people’s resourcefulness, creativity, and survival. They tell us stories about ourselves.

Eating and perception

Eating street food fires up all the senses, which are the center of my larger body of work. Street food conjures up memories of childhood and gives strangers a shared experience of a meal. These drawings themselves are interpretative; more than documenting what they are, I also draw how they’ve made me feel, and write the memory I have about them.

Follow the project’s Tumblr here.

P.S. Drawings up every Monday!

P.P.S. As I am based in Seoul, many of these posts will be about Korean street food, though I will draw all the other street foods I’ve eaten in other countries, past and future. But if you wish, you can submit photos of street food from your country and I can try it out and draw it. Or submit your own drawings, following the format I’ve started. The link to submit is here.

The Movable Feast, where eating means research. Thank you for checking it out.

For reasons I will write about later, I have decided to learn the Korean language and culture. More specifically, I have decided to pack as much useful Korean phrases as possible into my head (and know how to say them in context) in the next few weeks.

I didn’t think that open source courseware from universities was the way to go. I love using online resources such as Khan Academy, Udemy, and Coursera, but they don’t really specialize in languages and cultures. In addition, with the timeframe I was giving myself, I didn’t want to feel like I was taking a class.

To my surprise, it wasn’t easy to find good online courses that teach Korean, perhaps because a lot of Korean people already speak English. Still, I believe that learning a people’s language is one of the best ways to understand them. When I lived in Barcelona, it was only when I started learning Spanish and Catalan that the locals started opening up to me. (Not that they weren’t nice to me before, but you get the idea.)

Learning a new language and culture always gives me what I refer to as a “brain massage”—I can feel my cerebral cortex almost groaning under all that cognitive load. Incorporating language classes into a busy schedule isn’t easy, and it was important to find learning material that were easily packaged into digestible pieces that are easy to recall.

Looking at the relatively small landscape of Korean culture and language videos, here are the two that are keeping me up at night (both from Youtube):

1. Professor Oh and Friends (SweetAndTasty on Youtube)

I’ve never come across better styled and more entertaining language and culture videos than those of Professor Oh’s. Her first video caught my eye, and I remembered her because her mnemonic for Korean consonants was to sing them to the melody of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. This was something that we used to do in high school, but to remember all the Chinese dynasties. (It’s quite a versatile song, yes?) It’s also really helpful that she points out common mistakes in pronunciation. She’s come quite a long way from that endearingly shy first video, and now she’s morphed into several characters. As someone with many alter egos as well, I totally relate to her. Keep going!

(Also check our her other alter ago as Ramona Champion.)

Professor Oh and Friends: Making the Korean language unforgettable. No kidding.

Professor Oh and Friends: Making the Korean language unforgettable. No kidding. (Photo from their Facebook page)

Because desperate times call for desperate measures, my Korean language notebook has frantically wriitten notes in the five languages I know, to highlight similarities and make me learn faster. Some Korean consonants were very similar to Mandarin, for example. It’s also funny that some words were the same in lots of languages. Banana is, well, pretty much banana in several countries.

2. Eat Your Kimchi with Simon and Martina

It’s impossible not to talk about Korean culture blogging without writing about Eat Your Kimchi. Canadians Simon and Martina Stawski came to South Korea in 2008 to teach English and started doing video blogs about their experiences as expats. They blog about the K-pop industry, but it’s their videos on culture that’s helping me. Now hugely popular, they have more than 260,000 subscribers on their Youtube channel. They even surpassed their Indiegogo goal to register EYK as an actual business.

Simon and Martina of Eat Your Kimchi. Prepping expats for Korean living (and K-pop) since 2008. Whatup, nasties!

Simon and Martina of Eat Your Kimchi. Prepping expats for Korean living (and K-pop) since 2008. Whatup, nasties! (Photo from the Eat Your Kimchi Facebook page)

From what I’ve learned from both Professor Oh and Eat Your Kimchi is this—having that human connection where the speaker is looking at you is a plus. Having well-defined characters or personalities allow for more contextualization, and when I remember the words and phrases, I hear the characters speaking them in my head together with their idiosyncracies. It also helps that they seem to be genuinely nice people with normal lives. Thoughtfully written scripts also work well in helping me remember. I switch back and forth from these channels because it’s great to have both Korean and non-Korean perspectives.

These people all feel familiar to me, and I might instinctively give them high fives if I ever see them. Seriously, thank you, for making this process wonderfully entertaining and useful.

Barcelona Kawaii (December 2009), Digital illustration

Blessed are hard drives, for they shall reveal files gathering digital dust.

I did this digital illustration years back, for an exhibit called “Des de Fora” (From the Outside) in Sants, Barcelona. It was a time when I was getting over the hump of learning Adobe Illustrator. I completely forgot about this drawing! But I suppose this influenced my doodling habit later on.

The theme reflects on being a foreigner in Barcelona; I wanted to portray the increasingly multicultural nature of one of my favorite cities in the world. Futbol, Feast of St. George, Bicing, Gaudi architecture, etc. are all things I will remember Barcelona for.

It was also the year that it snowed in Catalunya for the first time in years:

Snow in Barcelona (March 2010)

It was also a time when I saw double AND triple rainbows on the day my friends and I were eating calçots and writing poetry:

Double rainbows over Barcelona (April 2010)

Look closely: Triple rainbows!

I t was also the time I was first part of the Poetry Brothel in Barcelona, which was probably one of the most influential times of my life from a creative standpoint and made me look at science from the point of view of poetry:

getting made up by Violet (Photo by Joe Wray)

I accidentally unearthed that cheongsam / qi pao the other day and was quite amazed by the wear and tear it had to withstand amidst all those poetry readings and performances.

I’ve been in Manila for five months now, and it’s been a time of looking at the city I grew up in from the outside. Despite living in multiple countries for so long, cities never fail to surprise me.

Perhaps, like cities, poetry whores, and the weather, humans, too, can pause and look at ourselves from the outside.

It’s just one of those days.

Returning to a city after many years is both pleasurable and vexing.

You are both resident and stranger. The shapes, sounds, and smells have both changed and remained the same.

My three major “homes” so far—Manila, New York, and Barcelona—are all port cities. In both historic and modern times, they have been the site of international trade, cultural intermixing, and political upheavals. Their faces dissolve and stabilize with the ebb and flow of both tide and time.

I am reminded of Cities of You, a beautiful project by Brian Foo, a web developer and “joy evangelist” whom I first encountered online when he submitted a sketch for DrawHappy.

Cities of You is a project that envisions people as imaginary places. It was inspired by Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities. Each artwork represents a person and also a relationship. Brian writes:

“I travel through each city and describe their special properties—how the buildings are built, how the people live, its history, culture, and reputation. As the project progresses, I revisit some cities, describing how they evolve over time or enter unexplored parts of the cities. The intended result is to be able to imagine relationships as dynamic spaces in which one can visit, walk through, and explore.”

I enthusiastically backed his Kickstarter project, which surpassed his initial goal of $2,000 and raised $11,000. The project is the publication of the first 41 cities he designed. His book is a gorgeous labor of love, alive with drawings, paintings, and prose. An overwhelming response from his supporters also led him to upgrade all the rewards, including a lifetime of gifts. (Yes, you read that right. I and 140 other backers are looking forward to receiving annual presents for the rest of our lives.)

Cities of You, volume 1. Image by Brain Foo via his Kickstarter project page

A couple of weeks ago,  Brian drew me as a city, too. Voila, I’m City #44! It’s quite an honor. Even though we haven’t known each other for very long, I think he nailed it:

“If you walk through the city of Orynnaci, the buildings are tall, bare, and ordinary. However, if you stare at a building, look away, then look back again, the building may change. Or sometimes, a building can disappear, or merge with another one. As a tourist, you may begin to recognize past cities you have visited if you stare long enough. Some buildings lose their form entirely. Walk down Main Street and you will see most citizens standing still with their head tilted back, tracing shapes with an outstretched arm. On the face of city hall, three words are inscribed in Latin, loosely translating to ‘Imagination, Perception, Metaphor’.” —Brian Foo

City #44: Orynnaci
24 x 18″, Gouache and Colored Pencil on Paper
Image and Text copyright by Brian Foo

Visit the project’s site here.

Due to my fascination with smell and its relationships with memory, I wrote and published a book that contains smells from Manila, New York and Barcelona—three cities I have lived in and have given me a lot of memories.

Each spread contains the memory on the left and the actual smell micro-encapsulated and printed on paper on the right.

Here’s one from Manila:

Burnt rubber
On busy streets
Particularly EDSA
The site of many a revolution
You can smell the worn tires.

Here’s one from New York:

Pumpkin pie
My first ever pumpkin pie was in 2007 on a martial arts retreat.
I remember not just the pie, but the knife lessons. We had a meditation room and went to a cemetery. We broke arrows with our throats.

Here’s one from Barcelona:

Strawberry
A birthday picnic for Harriet, up on Montjuic but closer to the museum. We wrote poems on a green Olivetti typewriter that we decorated with wildflowers.

Here are some people smelling my memories:

More photos up on Flickr.

Hello. My name is Catherine and I would like to give everyone in the world a hug.

I’m a hugger. I can’t help it. When I see someone I know, I just go for it as a greeting with barely a thought.

There are perfectly good explanations for this. I was raised in the Philippines, land of extremely happy and friendly people. I also grew up with a lot of stuffed animals. I still sleep with a pillow I’ve had with me from the crib—it’s the only material possession that has been with me forever. And dang it, it feels good. Hugging releases oxytocin, the hormone that promotes love and trust. In fact, studies have shown that a lack of human interaction, such as touching, is detrimental to growth and development. Touch ranks up there with food and water as a basic need.

But I do realize that not all people like to hug others. The idea of touching as a greeting is largely cultural, and I’ve had to adapt accordingly, depending on where I’ve lived and whom I was interacting with. In the Philippines, I hugged. In Spain, I kissed (both cheeks). Here in America, I shake hands. It is especially in the latter that I’ve felt that people respond the least positively to hugs. Many people, I’ve observed, have an invisible “wall” that illustrates their personal space. Touch may be considered as an intrusion, an interruption, or a threat. On the other hand, a hug can also be a sign of great physical intimacy that is only reserved for one’s closest family and friends.

I wanted to investigate our perception of touch. Moreover, I want this project to be a personal reminder of being physically connected to people.

Thus comes HugPrints. I designed a thermochromic (temperature-sensitive, color-changing) vest, so that it was possible to see evidence of the hug. The purple fabric temporarily turns to blue when touched. Right after each hug, photos of the front and the back of the vest are taken, showing where I was touched and how warm (literally) the person is. The patterns people intentionally and unintentionally make have been an interesting exploration of human contact.

I also record the ambient temperature of the environment. Hugging people indoors versus outdoors would give different intensities of color change.

I would love to give you (yes, you!) a hug. But hey, I would love it more if you give your loved ones and perhaps that sad-looking stranger next to you one, too! Visit the project site for more details.

Ready? Go!

A confession: I can tell my entire personal history through smells—baby powder and shampoo, my parents’ laundry detergent, the sea while growing up in Southeast Asia, tea tree oil I used to treat teenage acne, old books, lab chemicals, studio paints, and the many kitchens and apartments in the cities I have lived in. Smell can transport me to space and time, and thus, can serve as my olfactory timeline.

Helen Keller, who could neither see nor hear, used smell as a portal, too:

“Smell is a potent wizard that transports you across thousands of miles and all the years you have lived.”

Smell is our oldest sense and is the most powerful. About 2% of our genes are devoted to olfaction; other genes that can compare to this quantity are those for the immune system, which as we know are important for our survival. Hence, scientists believe that smell is more important than we think it is.

Smell is important for memory; this sense is processed in the brain’s limbic system where emotions are also processed. Hence, smell can be a very sentimental one. Impairment of smell has been found to be linked to Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and aging. In literature, Proust’s encounter with the madeleine is often referenced, where eating the biscuit unleashed memories. A similar scene in Pixar’s 2007 film Ratatouille involves the food critic Anton Ego being transported to his childhood while eating Remy’s ratatouille. (Note that while these episodes involve eating, it is the smell that evokes emotion; consider pinching your nose while eating a meal. You will not be able to properly taste it.)

Anton Ego in Ratatouille (copyright Pixar 2007)

This obsession with smell led me to conduct a blind smell experiment using smells that were printed via microencapsulation.

I asked the participants to close their eyes and to do two things: 1) Describe the smell (and if they could, guess what they are smelling), and 2) Talk about a memory that comes to mind. Their eyes were closed so that they would not be influenced by what the label on the card said. Their responses, which were usually streams of consciousness, were recorded. When appropriate, I prompted them with additional questions, such as when the episode occurred, or if they were stumped with identifying it, to focus on describing the smell (e.g. sweet, sour, etc.) or mention metaphorical associations with it (e.g. smells like a flower, a dish, etc). In between sniffing the cards, they had the option of smelling a hot cup of coffee to clear their sinuses, or to pause for a bit to take some fresh air.

The results of this experiment were quite astonishing. Here are some highlights and what I’ve learned from them:

Fresh air – Unsurprisingly, smells of what we buy do linger in our olfactory consciousness. This participant was interesting in that he could associate the smell with a product, recall a specific episodic memory, and associate the smell with a color.

“It smells like that freshening block you hang in a toilet …  Not that it seems like an air freshener. I definitely get that synthetic quality to it. I thought of this house that I went to once. It was with an ex-girlfriend—I was maybe 16 or 17. It was with her and her mother and it was her friend’s house, which I’ve probably went to once in my life. It reminds me of color as well—a pale pink peach color.”

Eucalyptus  – Some smells could not trigger a specific episodic memory, but concrete associations.

“It smells like a woman, some florally perfume … I guess i could smell a grandma, not mine but what I imagine … like a fat grandma with big boobs.”
Garlic – I was impressed by the associations of gender and abstract attributes.

“I don’t know what it smells like. But if it had a sex, it would be male, not female because for me it’s strong and a little cold.”

Strawberry – Some memories were specific to a particular event or interaction.

“It reminds me of Strawberry Shortcake, the doll. When I was in fourth grade, I had a friend… he had a younger sister who had one. We were in the playroom … Yeah, smells like strawberry, smells like neapolitan ice cream.”

Tea tree – This was striking because the smell on the card was very faint, and the participant had a minor cold. This made me think that smell can indeed be trained; the participant grew up in India, perhaps similar to my experience growing up in tropical Manila where the smells are more potent.

“It smells like winter, not in a plant way, because I’m usually sick in winter. smells like the cold balm I would use … some sort of a minty, oily smell. It’s [the balm] is strong; despite having a cold, I can still smell it. It also reminds me of a really famous clothing store in India because it uses organic dyes. Eucalyptus, tea tree oil or mint smell to it.”

Burnt rubber – This was particularly interesting because of the divergent associations these two participants had. One had a traumatic incident involving this smell while the other did not and so picked up on the sweeter notes of the smell.

“Whoa. This reminds me of something. It reminds me of going to the dentist. The smell of rubber gloves maybe? Having a hand placed in my mouth. Getting braces … in the 6th-8th grade. Teeth started to hurt smelling this.”

“It reminds me of my grandfather’s old house they [grandparents] used to live in. It’s not a cooking smell, it’s not as fresh. It’s sort of a flowery smell close to parma violets. Lavender flower, I suppose. Maybe it’s something between flowers and sweets. It reminds me of a specific part of the house which is to the back of it … a cupboard that had sweet things and flowers. The memory made me smell the thing, but the smell itself didn’t remind me of these things.”
While memories and associations of these smells are diverse, smell is indeed transportive, and is strong enough to take a person back to a specific time and place, remembering actual people, objects, and interactions. What could we do with this underestimated sense? How can we improve our memories, our relationships, and ultimately, our lives, by consciously engaging with smell?

Update: The resulting project from this experiment is An Olfactory Memoir of Three Cities, a book of my smell memories.

Main References
Angier, Natalie. “The Nose, an Emotional Time Machine.” New York Times, 5 August 2008.
Herz, Rachel S. and Schooler, Jonathan W. A naturalistic study of autobiographical memories evoked by olfactory and visual cues. The American Journal of Psychology, Vol. 115, No. 1 (Spring, 2002), pp. 21-32.
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