New York City stinks, yes, but this city of ours is rich in smells like no other. To document the odors that linger, excite and nauseate inhabitants, British multi-sensory artist Kate McLean and her army of sniffers are running around town with their noses to the wind—and deep in trashcans. McLean has so far mapped a block of Greenwich Village and her latest jaunt took her and her team out to Bedford Avenue, where she found the most offensive odor to be “the aroma of a marijuana joint”. Not convinced?
In McLean’s maps, odors are matched up with colorful swirls in a very artistic and dreamy way. Although her work may make our city look like a haven filled with delectable scents, the artist isn’t in total denial. In 2011, she created a map of New York’s smelliest block—which happens to be in the Lower East Side—highlighted with notes of dried fish, cabbage, car oil, air-conditioning, trash, orange peel, and 5-spice. McLean has also created similar Smellmaps for Paris, Glasgow, Amsterdam and Milan.
The Smellmaps are a crowd-sniffed effort, and McLean invites those from all backgrounds to take part. Her most recent Brooklyn adventure included John Havens, who is writing a book about the “nostalgia of smell,” and Alexandra Horowitz, who was conducting “immersive canine research”. As she told the New York Times, she once led a group of 44 highly trained perfumers, only to find that they were no better than the average person at non-perfume scents.
Next up for McLean is smellwalking in Queens and possibly the Bronx in 2015. If you are brave enough to throw your nose in the ring, get in contact with her here.
All images courtesy of Kate McLean