Mapping Scent

Odorama 33 - with Dora Goldsmith, Birthe Leemeijer, Kate McLean, Gayil Nalls and Caro Verbeek

27 sep 2019

Kate McLean pioneered Scentscaping, a method to capture the smells of a city onto a map. A recent trend shows artists and researchers alike trying to map scents of cities and areas. Alongside McLean, artist Birthe Leemeijer was the first to bottle the scent of a Dutch polder and Dora Goldsmith recreates the smells she reads about in ancient Egyptian texts. During Mapping Scent, we will discuss the ways in which the fleeting scents of an area can be captured and how they represent the essence of a space and its inhabitants.

Tickets / Facebook


Caro Verbeek introducing the theme of the evening - Anisa Xhomaqi


We might recognize cities by what they look like, but their scents are just as unique. For over a decade there has been an enormous increase in olfactory mapping practices by scholars and artists. Instead of painting iconic skylines, artists like Sissel Tolaas, Kate Mclean, Maki Ueda and Peter de Cupere have mapped the smells that characterise certain cities and areas.

Even though smells are fleeting, it is possible to record and map the olfactory dimension of cities. At this Odorama, two top scholars will shed light on the smell maps of contemporary cities, and even ancient ones.

The night will be introduced by Caro Verbeek, who will show some recent examples of olfactory mapping projects by artists.

This edition of Odorama is curated by Caro Verbeek. Odorama is a concept by head curator Caro Verbeek and a collaboration with co-curators Frank Bloem and Sanne Groeneveld.

Dr. Kate McLean

In her talk, McLean will be presenting Smellmaps - handy tools to better record the way a city smells. No city is just one scent - it is an (often overwhelming) compilation of everything that makes up the city. As she says on her website: 

People expect Amsterdam to smell primarily of cannabis. [...] But it only featured in a couple of neighbourhoods and missed inclusion here. Instead spring 2013 in Amsterdam revealed an abundance of the warm, sugary, powdery sweetness of waffles. Oriental spices emanated from Asian and Surinamese restaurants and supermarkets, pickled herring from the herring stands and markets – a link to one of the city’s key historical industries. Old books were detected in basement doorways and laundry aromas drifted up into the streets from Amsterdam’s many house hotels.

Birthe Leemeijer

With L'essence de Mastenbroek, Birthe Leemeijer and the perfumer nasomatto have captured the scent of a polder; a typical Dutch landscape, enclosed by dikes. Polders are endangered by new landscape designs, making this project incredibly valuable. Leemeijer installed a tap on a mound (terp) in Mastenbroek, to be used at will by the inhabitants, and she transferred the rights to sell the perfume to them, hence creating a social, volatile work of art. Leemeijer is intrigued by the fact that the smell enables people to mentally transport themselves to another place.

Dora Goldsmith

Dora Goldsmith is PhD student of Egyptology at the Freie Universität Berlin. The topic of her PhD project is the sense of smell in ancient Egypt, the exact title of her research being “The Archaeology of Smell in Ancient Egypt. A Cultural Anthropological Study Based on Written Sources”. Dora’s PhD project incorporates linguistic and cultural anthropological research. She records and translates all ancient Egyptian texts that include words related to olfaction, which help her define the role of smells in the ancient Egyptian society. In order to better apprehend the ancient Egyptian documents she works with, Dora also employs the method of experimental archaeology or ‘learning by doing’. She reconstructs the smells the ancient sources describe.

Dora will also be giving a workshop the following day, on the smell of mummification. If you would like to join this workshop, you can find tickets here.

Gayil Nalls' World Sensorium

The major social olfactory sculpture World Sensorium by Gayil Nalls is the result of over a decade of research into neuroaesthetics, botany, the anthropology of olfaction (or smell), and the “aesthetics of mass anatomy.” This statistically based composition of phyotogenic materials is an on-going work of vast scale and extreme complexity, created to evoke a global memory. Its formula, based on population percentages, reflects her investigation and defining of the “aesthetics of mass anatomy.” We will have the unique opportunity to smell the scent during Caro Verbeek's lecture.


Odorama: Mapping Scent
Friday, the 27th of September
Start 20.30
Mediamatic Biotoop, Dijksgracht 6, Amsterdam
Tickets: Full price €7,50 | Artist / Student / Stadspas €5,25 | +€2,50 at the door | (including €1 administration fee)

*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 will receive a 25% discount on our 3-course menu at Mediamatic ETEN upon presentation of your ticket! O
nly valid on day of event.