Sniffing out the Differences is a series of olfactory and multi-sensory interactive installations dealing with extremely critical cultural issues such as identity formation and xenophobia. It consists of 5 installations – Jallianwala Bagh, Identity stories, Mir Abdul Attarwala, Xeno 500, and Diversity in us and was exhibited at the State Art Gallery, Hyderabad and Pratt Institute, New York. Each installation was designed specifically to engage the audience, both within India and abroad, through a showing of the common, yet unknown and allowed them to introspect and fill in the missing gaps.
One of the key aspects of identity formation is the performative participation in the consciousness of the nation state which is primarily defined by the national myths surrounding it. Jallianwala Bagh is one of those foundational national myths defining the nation state in India. Users were able to experience this story in an emotionally charged manner because of the visceral nature of olfaction. Many were moved extremely and explicitly spoke to us about its impact.
Mir Abdul Attarwala deals with another aspect of nation formation – the rights of the stateless and the marginalized and Hannah Arendt’s rights of man in general. We focused on the lives of Kashmiris through recorded interviews and literature exploration, using which we built an emotional multi-sensory installation consisting of poetry, scent interactions, and video. We brought users closer to an understanding of the lived realities of people in Kashmir and the rapid descent into police rule. Users interacted with the installation through scents which guided them through the narrative of poetry and video.
Diversity in us and Identity stories deal with identity formation in the everyday reality. We got two protagonists to narrate their stories in their own voices and an olfactory medium. Olfactory interactions and strategically placed feedback helped truly place the user in the narrative of unification in the face of philological diversity.
Xeno 500 is a futuristic exploration dealing with increasing divisiveness and the lack of opportunities for cultural expression present in a scenario of extreme assimilation to the point of homogenization. The main premise of this being a “cure” for Xenophobia in the form of a pill which also “cures” away cultural diversity, thus retaining value only in a very technical and functional form while losing its human connotations. Users had the option to truly feel this cure through visceral olfactory interactions and physical interactions with the pills curing Xenophobia.
Sniffing out the Differences was funded through the highly competitive Prince Claus Fund and British Council culture funds and was well-received around the world, winning awards at the Red Dot Award Awards, German Design Awards, DNA Paris Awards, Muse Design Awards among others. It will also be featured in the Interactive Media section of the Communication Arts magazine in 2021.
Please visit https://www.sniffingoutthedifferences.com/ for more information.