Blue Oyster Gallery
“Odours are invested with cultural values and employed by societies as a means of and model for defining and interacting with the world. The intimate, emotionally charged nature of the olfactory experience ensures that such value-coded odours are interiorized by the members of society in a deeply personal way.” Constance Classen, David Howes, and Anthony Synnott in Aroma: The Cultural History of Smell. Taylor & Francis. (1994): 3.
If we inhale another’s memories, might we understand each other differently or perhaps more deeply? Osmologies brings together a series of olfactory “portraits” drawn from inhabitants of the same Aotearoa city from a range of ethnic, sensory, gender and neurodiverse backgrounds. Using the intimate sense of smell, it invites an embodied transfer of personal and cultural sensory experiences mingling in the shared space of the gallery.
The memories blended within each olfactory composition can expose histories less known, what is passed over when predominant, Western-centric biographical methods are used for documentation, such as writing and visual depiction. Insights gleaned from each of Jo Burzynska’s ‘smell histories’ can offer a challenge to conventional views on how smell operates – its supposed objectivity and inability to hold wider meanings.
Buzynska’s olfactory portraits interact with interiors rather than the exteriors or surfaces picked up by visual sight. They resist containment and so subtly mix with each other, making a larger, immaterial central work in which experiences coalesce.
Joanna Osborne in Otago Daily Times
Wesley John Fourie in Vernacular
Jo Burzynska was announced as the Premier Award at this year’s Zonta Ashburton Female Art Awards (ZAAFA) for the Mechanised Quarter audio-olfactory installation from her 2022 exhibition, What Might We Find When We Stop Looking? Jo was the overall winner out of 29 finalists, winning prize money and the invitation to present a solo show at the Ashburton Art Gallery in March 2024.
Mechanised Quarter was created using insights from a series of walks with members of the community exploring the city of Ōtautahi Christchurch using the non visual senses. It highlights the often overlooked sensory experiences of the city at a time of rebuilding after its devastating earthquakes. The sensory interplay between sound and scent encourages a nonvisual understanding of space and aims to foster alternative connections with urban environments.
“It was wonderful to receive this acknowledgment for my work,” Burzynska said, “As art is still so visually dominated, it was even more rewarding that a predominantly audio-olfactory work won this award. I hope this is indicative of the growing acceptance and celebration of art – and knowledge more generally – generated outside the visual realm.”
Images above: Jo with ZAAFA 2023 judges Lauren Gutsell, Kairauhī Curator at Dunedin Public Art Gallery; Professor Jane Venis, artist and academic; and Caroline McQuarrie, artist and Senior Lecturer in Photography at Whiti o Rehua School of Art Massey University (left) & interactions with the work at the ZAAFA 2023 exhibition (right).
Christchurch Botanic Gardens, NZ
Consisting of a sound installation and an interactive multisensory game, Garden of Sensory Exchange draws our attention to the elements of life that often escape our visual sensors. Based in the Fragrant Garden in the Christchurch Botanic Gardens, the site specific work captures and amplifies some of the unseen networks of sensory communication within and between species, present and past: from sonic messages shared by organisms in the soil to the chemosensory signals sent by flowers and humans that generate life.
The sound installation, played from speakers set within the pergola, comprises recordings of human and more-than-human nonverbal sensory communication. This starts literally from the ground up, with recordings made using a geophone of the minute vibrations of organisms in the soil. The installation amplifies sounds present at the site such as the worms under the soil, as well as those – such as the song of the tūī and taonga pūoro – that have been largely lost to the area through colonising activities.
Garden of Sensory Exchange also features an interactive multisensory game, which requires visitors to engage in their own crossmodal sensory communication. Crossmodal correspondences are the sometimes-surprising associations people experience between stimuli encountered through different senses, for example the smell of citrus is widely matched with high pitches. The artist also worked with a number of schools in an education programme, where students made a range of scented objects to initiate their own games of sensory exchange.
Images commissioned by SCAPE Public Art. Further documentation about the installation and the SCAPE Public Art Season 2022 can be found here.
Solo exhibition of mixed media multisensory installations
The Arts Centre Te Matatiki Toi Ora
What Might We Find When We Stop Looking? was the question navigated through passages across the colonial city of Ōtautahi Christchurch, New Zealand guided by the nonvisual senses. Using the original methodology of sensuous psychogeography, understandings and materials gathered on these often-playful pedestrian explorations were used to create interactive and overlapping multisensory installations. Made from recorded sounds, foraged wild foods, and materials gathered for their textures or distilled and blended for their aromas, the works could be heard, smelled, touched and tasted.
Initially presented as a solo exhibition at The Arts Centre Te Matatiki Toi Ora – the site from which these multiple solo and participatory walks started – the personal, social, and political understandings grounded in the nonvisual sensory connections these walks disclosed, were used to reflect and remap the city, encouraging different connections with the urban environment.
The city of this exhibition is reimagined through a series of “quarters”, circled by the ambulant city soundscape, Ōtautahi Drifting, and with the Tactile Border on one perimeter for exploration blindfolded by hand. For example, Kahikatea Quarter is an audio-olfactory meditative immersion set in the city’s only remaining podocarp forest fragment; Empty Quarter an experimental tincture of gravel from one of the many corporate carparks on the city’s bare post-earthquake sites; while the final Nurturing Quarter – made in collaboration with forager, Peter Langlands and chef, Alex Davies – invites people to gather amongst sounds of human and animal feeding to share a tonic made from introduced and indigenous plants foraged from the city.
This project was undertaken during Te Matatiki Toi Ora’s 2021 Arts Four Creative Residency Programme supported by Creative New Zealand and Stout Trust, and proudly managed by Perpetual Guardian. Scented support from Fragrifert and use of the perfume studio at Fragranzi.