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Assignment 3 – Mnemosyne Scent


Mnemosyne Scent! What a difficult assignment to pronounce! In this assignment, we are made to think of how certain scents can evoke different memories or emotions in our lives. I depend on my sense of smell greatly as I can tell a person by what scents they have (In the least creepy way possible).

As my mother changes laundry detergent often, as well as body soaps and shampoo, whenever I catch a hint of the scent of an old shower gel or detergent I used to apply, it overwhelms me with nostalgia as I think back to the memories I had during that period of time.

I love smelling wooden furniture as well! (This is the part where I go off topic) I get weird looks from friends when I sniff furniture! Especially if the furniture is oak, teak or rosewood because it provides a very homely and natural feel to it.

Good scent: Chlorine. I love the smell of chlorine because its the first thing I smell before I enter the pool. I used to swim about 3 times a week when I had much more time on my hands. I haven’t been able to find the time to swim recently, which is why i treasure that scent even more so.

The pool envelops me and gives me much needed alone time. The faint sound of pool water crashing into the sides and flowing into the drain, the complete absence of sound when I plunge my head into the water for a stroke. All these play apart in my relation to the scent. Swimming is an intimate sport as you can feel it in so many senses – from its smell, to water caressing across your body, to the taste of chlorine as you expel water from your mouth, the rushing and the silence of water. It never fails to make me happy.

My initial bad scent was the smell of alcohol swabs. This is due to the countless times I’ve been in the hospital for surgeries, broken bones, seeing loved ones, medical check-ups…. most of these experiences are associated with pain, be it physical or emotional. However I decided not to use alcohol swabs as it resembles chlorine in a sense that it cleanses, sterilizes objects. They both have a sharp scent to them which would be difficult to tell them apart when forming my scent sculpture.

Thus, I went ahead with the use of seawater.  In contrast to the water in swimming pools, seawater is murky, uncontrolled, there are so many different scents I would associate seawater to. Being in seawater is unpleasant as it leaves you feeling dirty, it smells incredibly salty, you are uncertain to where your next step or stroke would put you as it is such a chaos in the sea.


Artist References and Inspiration

Future world exhibition at Art Science Museum

I have been to this exhibition several times as they constantly update their installations. I came across this projector display and I really loved the tones of this installation. This installation is set in a room with a panoramic screen projecting an illustrated sea. Beanbags can be found around this area for people to sit and soak in the projection. You can also hear the soft sound of crashing waves in the distance.

I feel like this picture represents the calm I have amidst the chaos that is going on around me, clearly drowning me, which is also an accurate description of how I feel when I’m in the sea.


Es Devlin

One of the most established set designers in the industry – I decided to research on her work, to see how she makes use of the sense of smell to make her work exciting.

She was commissioned by Chanel to release a new line of their perfume. She created an exhibition with different rooms to it. In each room, guests are faced with difficulty navigating through her disorientating maze. However, when they are at the end of the maze, they are treated to the new scent of Chanel’s perfume, as well as a beautiful and vibrant backdrop for guests to associate it with the new scent.


She makes use of the emotions her guests feel to tie it with different scents. Guests will now attribute the scent to the feeling of accomplishment, relief and satisfaction after completing the arduous maze. I want to evoke similar emotions through my model, which is why I felt that her work was compelling.

Process and experimentation 

To begin, I decided to make my model look like the sea. Yes it is a very literal representation of my scent but I wanted to also replicate how I felt with association to the scent.

I used blue trash bags to get the colour of the waves. Interestingly, as you pulled the trash bags, when they are stretched they tend to have a lighter colour. This gave my waves greater tone variation and they would resemble the top of the wave. For the smell of chlorine, I cut up plastic bottles into shards. The sharp edges would represent the stinging of your nose and eyes when you are in the water.

To begin, I had to make wire frames to hold up the structure of the waves in the shape of a ‘t’. I used a thick wire for the main curve, followed by a series of thinner wires to allow the spreading of the ‘wave’.

After forming the frame, I then layered the blue garbage bags over the frame and used heat gun to get the garbage bag to hug the frame for a smoother curve. I made several frames, each varying in length to make sure that they do not look similar to each other, giving variation in my composition.

Next, I attached them to the board to figure out what would make an interesting composition.

After figuring out the composition of the waves, I had to add in the plastic shards into the overall composition. The reason why the shards are transparent is to show a contrast between the purity of sea water and the water from swimming pools.

After a few touch-ups, I came up with my final composition.

I was really pleased at how it turned out as it was able to represent the chaos of how it feels like to be in the sea.

This is how it looks like under dramatic lighting.

However, this could be represented better as pointed out by Cheryl. It would be more interesting and less literal if i had a ‘vortex of water’ sprouting out, with the two scents intertwining each other. This would have created a cleaner composition as well as one that is more dynamic.

“To make a good sculpture, you must first be one with the materials.”

– Joel Lee, 2017, ADM Y1