Ephemera: a synesthetic installation combining scent, sound and visual elements

Mar 18

Unsound already has a reputation for producing and presenting unusual music, conceptual works and unique commissions in its native Krakow and also in New York, London, Adelaide, Minsk and beyond. Now this music festival is breaking even further out of its comfort zone with a new project called Ephemera.

Bringing together scent and sound in startling new ways, the first phase of Ephemera is an installation that will present olfactory compositions based on musical resonances and reverberations. The nose behind the project is Berlin-based Geza Schoen, known for the groundbreaking Escentric Molecules series as well as various avant-garde/conceptual scents. These include Paper Passion, created for Wallpaper and Lagerfeld to capture the smell of freshly printed books, as well as The Beautiful Mind series, celebrating the power and beauty of human intellect.

Three musicians — Ben Frost, Tim Hecker, and Steve Goodman (aka Kode9) — created sonic raw material which Schoen then reinterpreted to create three different scents: Noise, Drone, and Bass, respectively. Schoen's scents were then used to guide the development of further sounds to fit an installation-style environment. Unsound’s Małgorzata Płysa, the co-curator of the project, said: Scent and sound are both the most ephemeral of senses - without having a visible physical form, an image attached to them, they have the power to trigger emotions, uncover memories and move other senses. Having been working with various types of sound, often abrasive and physical, we have decided to try and blur the lines, adding sense of smell and discovering what the effects could be.


Ephemera’s visual component is an evolving pattern created by London-based Manuel Sepulveda (Optigram) and Berlin-based video artist Marcel Weber (MFO); it includes both video and silk-screened materials that reveal different elements as the light shifts.

The installation will be launched at Unsound Festival New York 2014 on Monday March 31, at Audio Visual Arts (AVA). While sound will enter the room via speakers, technology developed by the Australian company Air Aroma will distribute the scents. At different points in the day throughout the festival, visitors will experience either Noise, Drone or Bass.

After its launch at Audio Visual Arts, Ephemera will travel to other cities, where it will be developed further, including an installation at Unsound Krakow in October, 2014. Ephemera will also take the form of a bottled perfume series created by Unsound, which will launched later in 2014. This will include the various sounds and scents.

Ephemera is curated by Małgorzata Płysa and Mat Schulz from Unsound.

Thanks to the Rolex Institute for their support of this project. We would also like to thank Geza Schoen, Ben Frost, Tim Hecker, Steve Goodman, Marcel Weber (MFO), Manuel Sepulveda (Optigram), Justin Luke of Audio Visual Arts (AVA) and Air Aroma.