Siobhàn McGibbon

Xenophon: a Multi-species Romance Through Smell

Research Residency Siobhán McGibbon

During her time on residency at Mediamatic, McGibbon researched, experimented and developed new skills in storytelling and means of expression through scent. As a world-builder, the artist was curious to explore the shift from viewer to active world participant through physical and sensory interaction.

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Siobhan McGibbon Residency Research Image - Siobhàn McGibbon

The research from the residency informs the artist's current enquiry entitled; 'Love beyond species and the sexual'. This ongoing project is a Xenothorpian multi-species romance, a love affair driven by the concept of queer-multi-species desire, can loving beyond protocol result in more relational choices that disrupt human-centred practices with the wild, unkempt, overgrown and invasive species?

In the first week of her residency, McGibbon participated in a series of Medamatic workshops led by visual and olfactory artist Frank Bloem, including 'Distilling a scent bouquet', 'Composing a fragrance' and 'Open Aroma Lab'. These workshops were fundamental to gaining knowledge in this new field and provided insight into the possibilities of olfactory strategies. 

In the second week of the residency, the artist investigated scent as a form of non-lingual communication, a seduction into the multi-species entanglement of three sites connected by the presence of Japanese knotweed. 

  1. The artist's garden, Schull, West Cork
  2. The artist's partner’s family farm in Ballydehob, West Cork, 
  3. The shoreline, Schull, West Cork

The artist began working with these sites in 2021, and the living and non-living actors that inhabit these environments continue to inform her thinking and practice. 

In the Aroma Lab, McGibbon began by recreating the scents of individual species, for example, ladybird secretion and the pungent odour of the stink bug. 

This active and diverse research period included learning about volatile compounds and smell chemicals of insects, theoretical knowledge of fragrance and entomology, and provided a generative space for the artist to conceptualise her ideas.

In response to this new thinking, McGibbon developed scents that explore multi-species intimacies and entanglements. For example: the waxy, sweet aftermath of an encounter between Aphalara itadori and Japanese Knotweed, the permeability between skin, soil and sea, and the eternal caress of seaweed, stones and the densely clad Japanese knotweed shoreline. 

The artist is excited about the learning outcomes of this residency and will return to Mediamatic in April 2024 to activate the world of Xenophon through a merging of scent and sculptural manifestation. 

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Aromalab Research residency Siobhan McGibbon - scent pallet - Jada Maij

About the Artist

Siobhán McGibbon is a Visual Artist, Researcher and World-builder with a transdisciplinary, art, science and narrative practice. Her expression merges sculpture, animation, drawing, text, permaculture and participatory installations.

McGibbon created the world of Xenophon in 2015 with writer Maeve O'Lynn to query post-Anthropocene futures. The world unfolds with each body of work, collaborating and researching with practitioners in specific fields to build the narrative.