Odor Ludens

Odorama 40 with Frank Bloem, Alissa Rees, Caro Verbeek, Thijs de Zeeuw, and Jonathan Kok Wai Ho

27 Aug 2020

Remember the smell of your childhood toys? You probably do. Especially the smell of soft Baby Born plastic, one does not easily forget. A whiff of strawberry or banana flavour completes the sensation.

With Odor Ludens, we explore the typical fragrances of toys. We will smell plastic dolls from the eighties and nineties (such as Star Wars puppets and My Little Ponies), and discover what normative associations are still connected to them. We will see how the scents of toys for animals in zoo's fulfil a peculiar function. We will talk about the function of smell in social media. What about the aromas of sex toys in a darkroom?

You can visit this lecture in real life and let your senses do the work, or follow it via our Instagram Livestream and receive a sample kit at home.

Tickets / Facebook

Ruilen (rœylə(n)) - Ruil je onder-de-bank-gerolde magenta klosje tegen een blitse speelgoedauto. Met deze en andere objecten kun je terecht bij Ruilen (rœylə(n)) , van 14 oktober tot 16 december 2012 in Mediamatic Fabriek. Abel

Bring your own fragrant toy

Smell is known to elicit very vivid and early childhood memories, many of which are connected to toys. Tragically, most of these scents disappear as our toys get tossed or simply vanish. In other cases, we don’t dare to touch our mint-in-box collector’s items no matter how much we crave for the delightful wafts of the past. In Odor Ludens, we will be reminded of the fragrant toys from our childhoods. We will present a fine selection of fragrant toys from the eighties and nineties. To get a rich pallet of smells, we would like to invite you to think about the toy smell that you still remember. Please bring your own smelly toy to the event, or send a video with your toy as a we-transfer file to


If you ask around for memories of the smell of toys, most people won't have to think long. Odorama curator Frank Bloem grew up in the eighties and although wooden toys were promoted by his parents, he rather played with plastic toys. He remembers the smell of a broken Pink Panter puppet, a smell that probably didn't come from the plastic but from the sweet strawberry flavours added by the manufacturer. 

Scent historian Caro Verbeek continues this story, and asks how added flavours (could) influence the normative ideas developed by children who play with the toys. For example: the Star Wars TIE fighter pilot accidentally smells of strawberry because it was produced in the same factory as Strawberry Shortcake dolls. Now a whole generation might associate this innocent fruity scent to masculinity and violence. It appears that the meaning we attribute to certain odours is fluid and gender-specific. A special part of Verbeek's edition includes a curated 'Nosetalgia - the Temporary Museum of Smelly Toys'

The fact that humans need to play, and experience personal growth while playing, we know because of Johan Huizinga and his book Homo Ludens. Thijs de Zeeuw, a designer of the homes of animals in zoo's, comes to talk about the playing animal. How do animals play, which toys can you give to an imprisoned animal and which role do scents play therein? 

On YouTube, TikTok and Instragram, an increasing number of people try to convey a sensation like touch or smell through a video – think about ASMR for example. We have seen trends in which influencers showed how particular surfaces – foam, sand, or gravel – feel. Many primary school kids are now obsessed with putty. What explains that these sensational images are so attractive, and why are YouTube and TikTok the right media to convey these sensations? 

Children are not the only ones that use toys; adults sometimes use them too, as is demonstrated by the enormous supply of dildos, butt-plugs, nipple-clamps, vibrators, handcuffs, et cetera. Jonathan Kok Wai Ho is a designer of fetish toys. He designed a number of play-equipment to have sex with, as well as the interiors of the darkroom of Homoclub Church in Amsterdam. Which role does smell play when he is designing such things? What scents do you use in the darkroom and what not? Can we think of taboos preventing the use of perfumes in dark rooms? And which role do poppers, sweat, and other smells play in a fetish game or a visit to the darkroom? 


Odorama 40: Odor Ludens
Thursday, the 27th of August
Start 20:00
End: 22:30

Mediamatic Biotoop, Dijksgracht 6, Amsterdam. Or via Instagram live with a scent-kit sent to your home.

Tickets: Full price €12,50 | Student / Artist / Stadspas €8,75* (incl. €1,- administration costs) | Livestream ticket, including a sample kit sent to your home €12,50.

You can buy a Livestream ticket until Tuesday, August 25th, 2pm. Then we have enough time to send you a sample kit. The Livestream will be available to anyone on Instagram. 

*We give a discount to students and artists. If this applies to you we will ask to see your kvk nr/portfolio or student card for this option. For questions please send an email to

Follow online

With the guidelines of our government in mind, fewer people are allowed on site. Therefore you can follow this lecture also online via Instagram live. The bodily experience that is common to our Odorama lecture will not get lost! We just send the flavours and smells to you. If you buy a Livestream ticket for this event before Tuesday the 25th of August, we will send you a sample kit at home to enjoy during the lecture.