Can you smell blue?

Odorama 42 with Caro Verbeek, Amy Toner, Ibo Bakker, Han van der Vegt, Anton Dorso, Tessa van Leeuwen and Francesca Strik Lievers

29 Oct 2020

Can you imagine that you could hear the colour blue, or taste a music piece? For some people this sensorial experience, called synesthesia, is part of their everyday life.

Wassily Kandinsky, who painted Schoenberg music, is probably the most famous example, but there are also people that can smell music, or taste scent.

In this diverse evening with lectures and performances, we will dive into the world of synesthesia. Thereby we will have a closer look at the sense that is often excluded from research after this sensational phenomenon: The sense of smell 

Tickets / Facebook


artbomb mediamatic - Mar-Ina Uhrig

Although the sense of smell is often excluded from scientific synaesthesia research, it has always been explored by performers and artists. Even 150 years ago, avant-garde artists like the symbolists and the futurists experimented with smell-synaesthesia. Poets like Baudelaire wrote about colourful and musical perfumes, and there were artists that translated scents into sculptures. 

Synaesthesia – ‘syn’ meaning together and ‘aesthesia’ meaning perception – is a neurological phenomenon in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway. People with synaesthesia can for example see music, hear colours or smell shapes. 

In this evening, curated by Caro Verbeek, we will explore different aspects of smell-synaesthesia through both lectures by scientist, and artist performances. The event can also be followed at home online via Livestream.


Caro Verbeek : Synaesthesia and the Futurists
Caro Verbeek is the curator of this evening. In her recently finished PhD 'Smelling Time' she focuses on the role of smell-synaesthesia among the artists that called themselves the 'Futurists' (1909 - 1943). For the occasion of the defense of her PHD, she invited several artists to translate scents from her research into their own art practice. The resulting art-works will be presented this evening. 

(Would you like to know more about this research? Caro's defense will take place on the 27th of October at 13:45, and will be online here!

Francesca Strik Lievers: Synaesthetic words
A voice can be described as loud, but we can also call it clear, or smooth. Just as colours can be described as warm, and smell can be sweet. These are examples of linguistic synaesthesia, a way of speaking in which one sensorial experience, like tasting, is being used to describe another sensorial experience, like smelling.

Why is it normal to describe the sounds and smells around us with tangible words, while tangible emotions are not often been described with auditive or visual words? Francesca, a Linguist at the University of Genua, explores these questions and will come to tell more about it. 

Tessa van Leeuwen: Smelling Colours
Tessa is a cognitive neuroscientist specialising in synaesthesia at the Donders Institute. Tessa will touch on synaesthesia and how it is left out in scientific research. In her lecture, she will also give an insight into the experiences of synesthetes, and give an impression of how it is to perceive the world in such an unusual way. 

Anton Dorso: Artists and synaesthesia
Anton Dorso's current research focuses on how congenital synaesthesia gets influenced by and integrated into cultural practices. Dorso's talk will deal with major questions of why, unlike in haute cuisine, there are so many more synaesthete perfumers than synaesthete chefs and what congenital synaesthesia can "teach" the olfactory world. Furthermore, innate synaesthesia can drastically affect the olfactory system but even more so because culture-driven perfumery sneakingly borrows from congenital synaesthesia.

The talk will also explore the olfactory experience in synaesthetes that makes a leap from "martian colours" to "martian smells" and the valuable meaning of our knowledge about this experience for perfumery science and art in general.

Amy Toner: Moving smells (Video) 
Choreographer Amy Toner translated smells into a dance film. The film: Parfum is a collage of sources, texts and smells of Caro Verbeek's thesis. The work is mainly an ode to the French artist Valentine De Saint-Point, who was part of the Furists, and who published the Manifesto of Futurist Women
Concept and Performance: Amy Toner
Filmmaker: Jonathan Mewett


11-02-2016 Odorama 4 Amy Toner's choreography, - Amy Toner is a choreographer that teaches children to dance according scents, so to say smell-movement synesthesia. She will tell us about her practice but she will also invite us to try for ourselves. We will get a sneak preview of her upcoming performance. Prepare to learning to dance with your nose. Willem Velthoven

With: Amy Toner

Han van der Vegt: Smelly poetry 
Han van der Vegt (1961) is a poet and a translator, who specialises in long narrative poems. He translated several scent-experiences into a poem: Cervelprofumo. 

Ibo Bakker: Listening to scents
In 1931 Marinetti - Leader of the futurists- wrote a poem about the scent-trace of a woman. Musicus Ibo Bakker translated this poem into a music piece: Sillage Rumeureuse. Can you hear what this woman smelled like? 


- I put a smell on you. Ibo Bakker performing 'I put a Smell on you' with a smoking Palo Santo on the back of his guitar.  Anisa Xhomaqi

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! As we just send the flavours and smells to you in a sample kit. If you buy an Online ticket for this event before Tuesday the 27th of October 14:00, we will make sure you get the sample kit in time for the lecture. 


Odorama 42: Can you smell blue
29th of October from 20:00 till 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* 

Online ticket, including a sample kit sent to your home: €12,50

Pick-up ticket, including a sample kit for pick-up at Mediamatic: €10,00**

You can buy an Online ticket until Tuesday, October 14th, 2 pm. Then we have enough time to send you a sample kit. The Online ticket experience 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

** You can pick up the sample-kit at Mediamatic between 9:30 and 18:00 Monday to Friday