An Olfactory Memoir of Three Cities: Manila, New York, Barcelona

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:

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.

  1. Rachel said:

    I am fascinated with this experiment and how it ties to creativity. I am a fine artist and I was wondering if you had any books on sale so that I may try to experience this amazing project. What inspired you to focus in the senses ?

    • Hi Rachel! So this was part of my thesis; I was investigating how the senses can connect memory and creativity. From my research, it seemed as though creative people have good associative capabilities; they can connect things together to bring about new innovative things. Also, they are more attuned to their environments; ordinary things can lead to eureka moments. My background is molecular biology (among others), and from that, I’ve learned to break things down as discretely as possible. For this project, I wanted to embody smell, which is “invisible” and the least tapped of all the senses. For me, our senses are the tools by which we experience the world, so it seemed natural for me to focus on those. Hope this helps. I have a book in progress; if you send me an email at csgyoung[at]gmail[dot]com, I’ll keep you posted. Or keep checking back on this site!

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